A MAN has been jailed for growing a cannabis crop, estimated to be worth £100,000, in South Tyneside.
Police uncovered the huge haul of 121 plants in a unit at Hebburn’s Victoria Industrial Estate in Victoria Road West last February.
Although no one was there at the time, George Plunkett was arrested after officers traced him as the registered key-holder of the unit.
The 46-year-old denied he was responsible for growing the cannabis, and pleaded not guilty to a charge of producing a Class B drug at Newcastle Crown Court.
But Plunkett, of Holmside Terrace, Gateshead, was found guilty after a trial, and jailed for four years.
The court heard that a member of the public called police after spotting a back door to the unit was open, and smelling cannabis coming from inside.
Officers found three farms weighing 11.7kg – forensic experts say that could have yielded crops with a £100,000 street value.
Hebburn and Jarrow Neighbourhood Inspector Ian King said: “This sentence should reassure people that tackling the production and distribution of illegal substances will continue to be high on our agenda.
“Neighbourhood officers will always offer support in the community to tackle the disruption caused by illegal drugs.”
In the past two months, officers in the borough have smashed cannabis farms worth a potential £1m.
South Tyneside Superintendent Andrea Henderson said: “Northumbria Police actively targets the production and supply of drugs and will seek to take action in relation to intelligence received.
“This result demonstrates our commitment to removing drugs from the hands of criminals, and has stopped a significant amount of cannabis from being distributed in our communities.
“We would encourage people to contact us if they suspect a property is being used to produce drugs.
“Tell-tale signs include people arriving at unusual hours, a pungent aroma in the area and blacked-out windows or bright lights coming from a number of windows throughout the night.”
Supt Henderson added: “I’d also like to remind landlords just how important it is for them to look for signs regarding cannabis farms.
“We know from previous experience that those setting up farms often pay a large amount of rent up front in cash to keep landlords away.
“It’s vital they check on their property regularly, as the damage caused to homes by the setting up a farm is often more costly in the long run.
“By working together, we can put a stop to drug offences in South Tyneside.”
Anyone with information about drugs in the borough is asked to contact 101 ext 69191.