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Woman guilty of growing cannabis believed she was looking after “exotic Japanese plants”

PUBLISHED: 20:31 24 September 2018 | UPDATED: 13:37 25 September 2018

Norwich Magistrates Court. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norwich Magistrates Court. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

An unemployed Lithuanian woman who found a “housekeeper” job looking after what she believed were “rare roses” for £1,000 a month has been found guilty of producing and possessing cannabis.

Svetlana Jarmalaviciene, of St James Close, Norwich, was arrested on August 22 after police searched a bungalow in Valley Side Road where she had been working for two months looking after and watering “some sort of exotic Japanese plant”.

Police described the bungalow, which had three “cultivation rooms” and had been adapted specifically for growing the Class B drug, as a “cannabis production facility”.

Norfolk Magistrates’ Court heard that the living room was completely insulated and growing pipes were installed through the loft space.

There were also pots of boiling water in one of the bedrooms as well as filtration units and “skunk” sample plants.

When police later arrived at the defendant’s home address they found her laptop open, a bag of cannabis and a cannabis plant in a jar by the side of her bed.

However, Jarmalaviciene said she was asleep when officers arrived and that she was given the jar to look after but didn’t know what was inside.

In her trial the 49-year-old swore on oath that she didn’t know what cannabis was or what it looked like.

Accompanied by a Lithuanian interpreter, she added that she had never taken or seen the drug.

The defendant also said that if she had known what the plants actually were she would “never have taken the job”, but was “just happy to get work” after being made redundant from her turkey cutting job at Bernard Matthews.

The court heard that the defendant - who worked in a factory and as a nurse for the elderly in Lithuania before moving to the UK in 2010 - found the job on a Facebook page for Lithuanian-speaking people in Norwich.

She rang the phone number in the advert and agreed to meet the advertisers - two men she believed to be Polish - in a local car park.

“They took me to the bungalow,” she told the court via the interpreter.

“They said all the instructions would be written so I knew what I was doing.

“That’s when they said to me ‘we need to go to the shop to get some seeds’.

“The next day we met up and all the instructions were on the doors of each room. They told me not to let anyone in the property when I was on my own.

“They said the plants were very, very rare and not to tell anyone about it.”

Stephen Poole, prosecuting, asked the defendant if she knew that cannabis is a plant, if she was ever suspicious about what she was being asked to do and if she ever inquired or researched the plants she was growing.

Ian Fisher, defending, said the defendant gave police lots of information at interview, has no criminal record in the UK or Lithuania and said that she should not be judged based on a lack of knowledge of drugs.

“If there is a possibility that she got into this through naïvety or ignorance or robotically - just doing what she was told and not asking questions - the court should consider her state of mind.

“When she moved in the plants were already there. She was feeding and watering them. She was told that she shouldn’t let anyone inside or go out at night as someone might steal the plants.”

Summing up, chair of the bench, Susan Alexander said: “We do not believe that the defendant put forward a credible explanation and therefore find you guilty of both offences.”

Jarmalaviciene was released on bail on the condition that she lives and sleeps at her home address.

She will appear at Norfolk Magistrates’ Court for sentencing on November 2.

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