Man claims he grew 700 cannabis plants to treat chronic pain after watching Netflix show
PUBLISHED: 08:34 11 September 2019 | UPDATED: 17:23 11 September 2019
A man claimed he grew almost 700 cannabis plants to treat his chronic pain, a court has heard.
Charles Nichols, 67, and his wife Helen were both charged with production of cannabis and illegally abstracting electricity between January 2017 and February 2018, after police raided their home in Houghton Lane, North Pickenham.
Norwich Crown Court heard the raid, on February 7 last year, was carried out after a police drone found "a large amount of heat" coming from a shed.
Police asked what was in the shed and Nichols said he was breeding birds, but also said he was growing cannabis with about 200 plants there.
But officers discovered a sophisticated set up with hydroponic equipment, lights and a total of 693 plants, together with herbal cannabis in bags.
Nichols had pleaded guilty to both charges on the basis that he was growing the drug for cannabis oil for his personal health reasons.
He appeared in court on Tuesday (September 10) for a trial of issue, insisting that he had grown the cannabis after watching a programme on Netflix to try and ease the chronic pain he had suffered for years that prescribed medication could not help.
Martin Ivory, prosecuting, said they were "sceptical" about the defendant's version of events given that the cannabis found was grown after £4,500 was spent on setting the venture up.
Judge Stephen Holt said it "just doesn't make sense" and did not accept Nichols' explanation either.
Emma Reed, mitigating, asked that her client be given credit for his plea.
She urged the judge, given Nichols' health issues, to suspend his sentence.
Miss Reed said prison for him would be "devastating" and far more difficult than for someone younger coming before the courts.
She said the offences were borne out of a wish to self-medicate himself against the pain he was suffering - "albit he got carried away".
Judge Holt said the offences had "clearly crossed the custody threshold" but insisted it would be "cruel" to send him to prison immediately.
He sentenced Nichols to 24 months imprisonment, suspended for two years.
The prosecution formally offered no evidence against his wife Helen.