Village couple jailed for setting up £17K cannabis farm

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A MIDDLE-AGED couple facing bankruptcy agreed to set up a cannabis farm in the grounds of their home in a bid to raise cash, a court was told on Friday.

Graham Oliver and his wife Mary had run up debts of more than £40,000 after Mr Oliver’s plumbing and gas fitting business collapsed when he had a breakdown.

Rob Townsend, prosecuting, told Lincoln Crown Court that the couple were offered £1,800 in return for allowing a caravan in the grounds of their rural home at Donington on Bain to be used for growing cannabis.

Heating and lighting systems were installed and the Olivers were to be paid for acting as gardeners and watering and pruning the plants.

But their project came to an end in June when police raided the caravan, hidden in the grounds at the back of their home, and found 94 cannabis plants.

Mr Townsend said “The caravan had been converted for the commercial production of cannabis. There was high-powered lighting controlled by timers. The plants were individually potted and manually watered.

“There were female flowering tops available for harvest. The plants had the capacity to produce 2.7Kgs of cannabis with a street value of £17,000.”

Checks showed a significant increase in electricity usage at the property from the previous September

Graham Oliver, 58, and Mary Oliver, 55, both of Lime Pit Cottage, Manor Hill, Donington on Bain, each admitted production of cannabis. They were each jailed for 18 months.

Judge Michael Heath told them “I am not persuaded that there should be anything other than immediate custodial sentences in this case.

“This was commercial production of cannabis. Both of you went into this with your eyes wide open. It was for financial gain.”

Neil Sands, for Graham Oliver, said that his client was unable to work as a result of a breakdown and his debts rose to more than £40,000.

He said Oliver was persuaded to allow the cannabis farm on his land after being approached by a man he met in a Horncastle pub.

“Such was his desperation and such was the lure of £1,800 that he felt he had no other way out of his problems and decided that was the road he should take.

“He is a capable and intelligent man. This incident was totally out of character.”

Christopher Milligan, for Mary Oliver, described the plants as a one-off incident and said no cannabis was ever harvested or distributed.

He said her only role was to water the plants a couple of days a week and cut out any dead leaves.

“Her husband’s business had failed. They entered into an insolvency voluntary arrangement and that had failed. They were facing bankruptcy.”