DRUG dealers set up an underground cannabis farm in a specially-dug vault that had a supply of electricity from a nearby lamp-post.
The 8ft by 6ft and 6ft deep chamber, accessed by a ladder, was kitted out with a wood ceiling and walls and fitted with ventilation and water systems, filters, fans, lighting and timers.
The cannabis growing inside the den, found on wasteland at Wagonway Road, Hebburn, could have produced more than £3,000 of the drug from a single crop.
Caroline McGurk, prosecuting, told Newcastle Crown Court the farm was unearthed by a police officer on the beat, who noticed a lamp-post looked like it had been tampered with.
Miss McGurk said: “He followed an electric wire from a lampost to a small wooded area.
“There he found an underground cannabis farm.
“It had been dug into the ground and the earth removed used to hide it from casual view.
“Access was gained by moving a metal manhole cover.
“There was then a small ladder to take the user down to the cannabis farm itself.
“The wood ceiling and walls were painted white and there was reflective sheeting on the walls. There was well-fitted floorboards.
“The police had to make the farm safe by disconnecting the electricity supply from the lamp-post.”
Kyle Wood, 23, of Ellison Street, Hebburn, was arrested after his fingerprints were found on duct tape inside the bunker.
He admitted producing cannabis on the basis he was persuaded by people he owed money to install his growing equipment into the pre-dug and prepared hole.
In return, he would be given a share of the cannabis produced in the farm.
Mr Recorder Andrew Stubbs QC sentenced Wood to 12 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, with supervision, drug treatment and programme requirements.
The judge said: “This cannabis chamber had been dug into the ground and professionally boarded up and kitted out with all that was required to start producing crop after crop after crop of skunk cannabis.
“This was a particularly professional cannabis farm, designed to be an ongoing operation and attempted to avoid detection by the ingenious way in which the farm had been created.”
The judge said he accepted Wood was not the mastermind behind the building of the bunker.
John Wilkinson, defending, said: “The hole had been dug, the electricity supply connected up, they knew he had his own equipment that he took to the hole and set up.”