Cannabis ‘farmer’ jailed for 18 months

editorial image

A MIDDLE-AGED man who had a 58 plant cash-making cannabis farm hidden in an industrial unit in Barnoldswick has been jailed for 18 months.

Burnley Crown Court heard how Graham Stockdale had rented the premises at The Butts, saying he wanted to store antiques. He was caught out after he used a single plug on an extension lead to power all the growing equipment, it overloaded, a blaze broke out and the fire brigade found the drugs. Police then discovered 10 more plants in a shed in his garden and the defendant admitted he had already sold one crop for £1,800.

The hearing was told Stockdale, who worked for Kirk Environmental Ltd, claimed he was hard -up, but he and his wife went on a £3,000 cruise just after he was arrested.

The defendant (57), of St Mary’s Avenue, Barnoldswick, admitted two counts of producing cannabis last March 5th.

The court was told the fire brigade found rooms containing four tents hidden behind some furniture at the unit. Twenty of the plants were mature, 20 were seedlings and 18 were plants were hanging up to dry.

Miss Sarah Statham (prosecuting) said when Stockdale was questioned by police, he admitted straight away he was growing the cannabis for financial gain and said he had read how to do it. He had done all the wiring himself.

The defendant told officers it was his second crop, he was in the process of finding a buyer and was adamant nobody else was involved. The defendant told officers he had money troubles but then said he was going on a £3,000 cruise. Stockdale faces a proceeds of crime hearing in September.

Mr Patrick Harris, for Stockdale, said he had perhaps acted completely out of character. He was highly regarded by his employer and was a family man. The police were easily able to find the defendant the day after the fire as they spoke to the landlord.

Until about three or four years ago, the defendant had been looking forward to a comfortable retirement with his wife. They had savings and had bought a very large property in the country. They took advice from a financial adviser and Stockdale had tried to sue him. The defendant had been encouraged to sell the house and invest in a number of properties, but the recession hit, all were in negative equity and it was likely many would be repossessed.

Mr Harris continued: “He is concerned that at some stage, he is likely to become bankrupt. A custodial sentence is likely to accelerate that process.”

The barrister said the defendant had been in “dire straits” when he committed the offences. The cruise had been booked several years before, he tried to cancel it after his arrest, was told a refund would not be given so he and his wife went. Mr Harris added: “He tells me he didn’t enjoy that holiday.”

Mr Harris said the cannabis growing equipment in the tents at the unit was on one single plug on an extension lead, which overloaded and caused the fire. He added: “It was perhaps not the most sophisticated type of operation.”

Judge Jonathan Gibson said he accepted Stockdale had been a hard worker. The judge told him: “This was, on any view, your enterprise. You accepted that while you were interviewed and whilst there may have been another person involved, you accept you had set this up and you had sold the first quantity of cannabis.”