A 60-year-old man who claimed he was growing cannabis plants at his Halifax home to fund a trip to Canada for his sick wife has been given a suspended prison sentence.
Recorder Dean Kershaw decided not to lock up Barry Cowley over the cannabis factory at his Hermon Avenue home after hearing how the defendant himself was now suffering from cancer and had a life expectancy of six to 12 months.
Bradford Crown Court heard today (Tuesday) that when police executed a search warrant at Cowley’s property in February he flippantly told them: “There goes my pension fund. I’ll show you my grow.”
Prosecutor Sobia Ahmed said the cellar area of the house was divided into two with one part set up as a “nursery” containing 28 cannabis seedlings in pots.
In the remaining part of the cellar 12 cannabis plants were being grown using high-powered lighting and the electricity system in the house had been by-passed.
Officers were also shown into the attic where a further 12 plants were being grown and the court heard that an electric cable was running from the cellar to the attic to power the necessary lighting and fans.
Miss Ahmed said the 52 plants could have produced cannabis with a street value of about £20,000 and when he was questioned by police Cowley admitted that he had already sold 30 ounces of cannabis from his first crop for £4,500.
He said he had used some of the money to set up the cannabis operation in the attic.
Barrister Carl Kingsley, for Cowley, said he had grown the cannabis because his wife Sally also suffered from a significantly shortened life expectancy due to a chronic pulmonary disorder.
“She has relatives in Canada and before she dies she wants to see her relatives in Canada, principally her sister,” said Mr Kingsley.
“The defendant has been unemployed since being diagnosed with emphysema 10 years ago.
“They simply do not have the wherewithal to go to Canada and that was the principal reason why he was advised by others to embark on this enterprise...to get quick money to achieve their goals.”
Recorder Kershaw queried why £4,500 wasn’t enough to go to Canada and Mr Kingsley conceded that the money had been used to pay off debts and fund a holiday for Cowley’s son and his then girlfriend.
Mr Kingsley said the second grow was to pay for the trip to Canada but that had been scuppered by a call to the police which led to the raid on the house.
The court heard that since his arrest Cowley had himself been diagnosed with lung cancer which had spread to his liver and was inoperable.
“He saw his specialist yesterday and the prognosis is somewhere between six months and a year (to live),” said Mr Kingsley.
Cowley pleaded guilty to the offence of producing cannabis and Recorder Kershaw said he should be jailed for growing at such a level.
But he said if he locked up Cowley he could pass away in prison and the person that would really suffer would be his partner.
“These are the moments of your life that the two of you have to be together not facing court proceedings or going to see probation and so on,” said the judge.
“I want to see you end your days out of custody, but any repetition of this in the time you have left on this earth and you’ll go into prison. Those are harsh words but that is the reality.”
The judge decided to suspend Cowley’s 12-month prison sentence for a year and ordered the forfeiture and destruction of all the plants and equipment seized by the police.