‘Crime does not pay’ - Man who stole electricity to power Norfolk cannabis factory must pay British Gas £37,000

High House Barns, Gunn Street, Foulsham

High House Barns, Gunn Street, Foulsham - Credit: Google Maps

A man has been told to pay British Gas more than £37,000 after he stole electricity from the firm to power a huge Norfolk cannabis factory.

Ian Brown, 55, was jailed earlier this year for four years after he was found guilty of production of cannabis and illegally abstracting electricity.

The power drove the cannabis factory, which was uncovered by police at High House Barns, Gunn Street, Foulsham, where Brown also lived.

He was jailed at Norwich Crown Court, in September, last year, along with co-defendant John Styles, 46, who was jailed six years.

However Brown was back at the crown court yesterday, via a video link from prison, for a confiscation hearing to claw back some of the cash from the drugs operation.

Recorder Guy Ayers heard that a total confiscation amount of £44,518 was available to the court and he ordered that £37,917 of that figure should be paid as compensation to the electricity supplier, British Gas, to repay them for the electricity which had been illegally abstracted to operate the cannabis factory.

Recorder Ayers said the money should be paid within a three month period.

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He said that a further nine-month sentence should be served in default if the cash is not paid.

During the trial the court heard how police raided the premises in December 2014 and found the cannabis factory containing hundreds of plants with special areas for growing, drying and packaging.

The trial heard that the cannabis factory had a potential annual yield of £120,000 to £214,000 and that both men had played a 'leading role' in the factory which was on a commercial scale and capable of producing a significant quantity.

It was also estimated that about £38,000-worth of electricity had been illegally abstracted to provide all the heating and lighting needed for the cannabis-growing operation.

Both men had denied all the charges but were convicted following the trial in July last year.

At his sentencing Judge Katharine Moore accepted Brown had been of previous good character and was well thought of in the local community.

Detective Inspector Rob Turner, from the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU), said: 'The confiscation order together with the prison sentence that Brown has already received demonstrates that crime does not pay.

'Our financial investigators worked closely with our colleagues from Norfolk Constabulary to ensure that the investigation was as robust as possible. As a result Brown has now been stripped of the money he made from the operation, the thought of which no doubt motivated him to engage in the unlawful activity in the first place.'