Woman at the centre cannabis growing operation claimed she was looking after exotic plants

Norwich Crown Court. Picture Adrian Judd.

Norwich Crown Court. Picture Adrian Judd. - Credit: Archant

A woman found at the centre of a cannabis growing operation at a Norwich home claimed she thought she was 'looking after exotic plants', a court has heard.

Svetlana Jarmalaviciene, 50, was found in the bedroom of a property in Alexandra Road, Norwich surrounded by cannabis, in various states of growth, worth between £3,800 and £5,000.

When police raided the house in August 2017 they found a number of plants and equipment linked to an cannabis-growing operation, including lighting equipment, electricity which had been abstracted and a false wall.

Chris Youell, prosecuting, said the defendant was found in bed with plants found next to the bed and in other rooms at the privately rented property.

In total officers found 18 potted plants of cannabis, thought to have a value of somewhere between £3,800 and £5,000, as well as others at various stages of growth in the property.

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They also found cannabis, worth about £300, at her home address in St James Close, Norwich.

Mr Youell, who described Jarmalaviciene as the 'custodian' of the plants said she was paid about £1,000 a month to look after what she described as 'flowers'.

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He said: 'She was staying there for the purpose of carrying out cultivation of those plants, presumably in return for some payment of benefit.'

Jarmalaviciene was found guilty of production of cannabis and possession of cannabis following a trial after denying both offences, insisting that she believed she had been 'tending exotic plants'.

Ian Fisher, mitigating, said Jarmalaviciene, who is from Lithuania and has two children worked in a restaurant over there but lost her husband in 2007.

He said she came over to this country in 2010 and got a job with Bernard Matthews where she worked until 2017 when she lost her job.

Mr Fisher said she 'couldn't find employment' and felt into rent arrears before this 'opportunity' presented itself of being a 'watch person'.

Judge Maureen Bacon said she accepted the defendant 'was not the criminal mastermind behind this operation'.

On Thursday she sentenced her to a total of nine months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months. She was also ordered to do 150 hours unpaid work, pay £800 costs and a £140 victim surcharge.

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