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Man who turned blind eye to cannabis farm spared jail

PUBLISHED: 12:53 27 August 2019 | UPDATED: 12:53 27 August 2019

Norwich Crown Court. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Norwich Crown Court. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk

A man who "turned a blind eye" to a remote farmhouse being used to grow cannabis has been spared jail.

Lee Sharp had been renting a property on Race Course Road in Terrington St Clement when he sublet the building to two people.

Norwich Crown Court heard between November 2017 and February 2018 three outbuildings at the farmhouse were being used for a "substantial" cannabis operation yielding up to four kilograms a year.

Sharp, 51, had discovered the plants but failed to tell police, instead collecting his £750 a month rent from the growers.

Prosecutor Stephen Mather told the court the three rooms had 46 plants with a potential yield of over a kilogram per harvest - capable of harvesting three of four times a year. It had a street value of between £14,000 and £19,000.

"A substantial part of the premises were used and given the expected yield we submit it is higher culpability due to the number of rooms used and the potential crop," said Mr Mather.

"The tenancy agreement was £750 a month cash. The premises, primarily for those three months, were used for cannabis growing."

Jonathan Masters, for Sharp, said since the operation was discovered Sharp had been granted sole custody of his five-year-old daughter and had moved on from his "criminal lifestyle".

He said Sharp had provided police with photo IDs and a written tenancy.

"He would have no idea of the scale of it or how many rooms are being used," said Mr Masters.

"Other examination of the available evidence does not yield anything that would link him to more. There is nothing that points to this man being involved in any way in the ongoing sale of cannabis.

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"They have had a look at his finances and there is nothing. It would be rather unusual for someone who has had a bung from this for it not to be shown in cash or a bank account.

"He is now the sole carer for his five-year-old daughter. He used to be a hard worker. Now he is a single parent.

"He has quite clearly acknowledged what is going on and turned a blind eye. He knows the seriousness of what he has done.

"This is in the past and he is no longer someone with a criminal lifestyle."

Sharp has previous convictions for possession with intent to supply for cannabis in 2005 and cocaine and 2009.

But in August last year the family court granted him custody of his daughter.

"With a past of criminal offending he is now someone looking after a child with a seal of approval from the family court," said Mr Masters.

Judge Andrew Shaw told Sharp when he discovered the cannabis grow it was "incumbent" on him to call police.

"Had this enterprise not been interrupted you expected to receive £750 a month - getting on for £10,000 a year," he said.

"You were quite prepared to let them carry on paying you for the trouble."

Sharp, of Formans Bridge Caravan Park, Sutton St James in Lincolnshire, was given 42 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months. He must carry out 15 rehabilitation days and 200 hours of unpaid work.

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