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Man found guarding huge cannabis factory in rural Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 08:21 23 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:52 23 March 2019

The cannabis factory on Brands Lane in Felthorpe. Picture: Dominic Gilbert

The cannabis factory on Brands Lane in Felthorpe. Picture: Dominic Gilbert

Archant

A man who said he had no idea what cannabis looked like was found at a huge detached property with more than 300 plants with a potential street value of up to £120,000, a court has heard.

The cannabis factory on Brands Lane in Felthorpe. Picture: Dominic GilbertThe cannabis factory on Brands Lane in Felthorpe. Picture: Dominic Gilbert

Rimantas Valentukonis, 51, had come to the UK from his native Lithuania to find work as an odd job man, Norwich Crown Court was told.

The court heard he had been asked to do a decorating job at the property in Felthorpe where he was also able to stay.

The court was also told he had no previous knowledge of cannabis growing and had “no idea of what cannabis plants look like” prior to becoming involved in the operation.

Oliver Haswell, prosecuting, said Valentukonis was set to be told how to care for the cannabis plants, but was found at the property in Brands Lane when police executed a warrant just days before Christmas last year.

Police at the cannabis factory on Brands Lane in Felthorpe. Picture: Dominic GilbertPolice at the cannabis factory on Brands Lane in Felthorpe. Picture: Dominic Gilbert

Mr Haswell said they found 322 cannabis plants at various stages of growth in four rooms and a garage.

Officers also discovered a “sophisticated operation” which included lighting and hydroponics equipment.

Mr Haswell said many of the plants found were close to being cropped and could be expected to reach a value of between £50,000 and £120,000.

Valentukonis, of no fixed abode, appeared at court on Friday (March 22) for sentence after having previously admitted one count of production of cannabis On December 19 2018.

Richard Kelly, mitigating, said the defendant, formerly a driver and builder, was not an educated man and had come to the UK to try and find work.

Mr Kelly said his move to the UK followed the deaths of his father and sister and also the break up of a relationship he had been in for five years. He said his client had no previous convictions, either in this country or in Lithuania, and had not known there were going to be drugs at the property when he took the job.

Sentencing Valentukonis to a total of seven months imprisonment, Judge Stephen Holt accepted the defendant had performed a limited role and said he had become involved “naively”. But he said he must have been aware of the number of plants and “scale of the operation” and added that a custodial sentence had to be imposed.

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