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Man who had 117 home-grown cannabis plants in his garage avoids prison
4:30pm Thursday 3rd October 2013 in News
A REDDITCH man who turned to growing cannabis at his Worcestershire home after suffering a series of financial set-backs has escaped a prison sentence.
Paul Richards, aged 52, was caught with up to £52,650 worth of cannabis plants - plus the remains of a previous harvest - when police raided his home in Redditch on March 27 this year.
He was handed a 20-month spell prison sentence at Worcester Crown Court yesterday (Wed) after pleading guilty to two charges of producing the Class B drug - but Judge Daniel Pearce-Higgins QC, after hearing about his personal circumstances, decided to suspend it for two years.
He told Richards the court had an obligation to impose a sentence that would act as a deterrent to anyone else who might get involved in producing drugs.
"However, I also have to consider the position of this defendant," he added.
"It is clear this family has suffered a number of financial set-backs, due to business failure and poor decision-making."
Prosecutor Mary Wallace told the court police had discovered 117 plants in the garage of Richards' home, with a potential yield of more than 5kg - worth tens of thousands of pounds on the street.
Officers also found a bag of stalks and lower quality flowering heads, which indicated there had been at least one harvest before that.
The first and only offence on his record, she said, was three charges of producing cannabis which came before the court in 2010.
Graham Horton, defending, said Richards, now of Springcroft Road, Hall Green, Birmingham, had faced "financial disaster after financial disaster", including losing his job and embarking on a doomed trip to relocate to Spain.
There were also "serious concerns" about his wife, he added, who had given up her job as an auxiliary nurse due to mental health problems, and Richards began smoking cannabis to “escape reality".
In addition to the suspended sentence, Judge Pearce-Higgins issued him with a 12-month supervision order and told him he must do 200 hours of community service, as well as pay a £100 victim surcharge.
Richards will also face a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing in the coming months to confiscate any money he made from the operation.
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