Drug-farm case to go for trial

RAID RESULT ... a policeman removes drug equipment from a flat in Westcott Road.
RAID RESULT ... a policeman removes drug equipment from a flat in Westcott Road.

A MAN accused of growing a drug farm in South Tyneside will have his case heard at crown court.

Gavin Benos is said to have grown 127 cannabis plants in a “commercial enterprise” in a flat in Westcott Road, South Shields.

The farm, lighting and plant food were found by police who raided the home on Thursday afternoon. The plants have an estimated value of £50,000.

The 32-year-old appeared at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court yesterday facing a charge of producing the Class B drug.

Benos, of Seton Avenue, South Shields, entered no plea.

Jeanette Smith, prosecuting, told magistrates that because of the value of the drugs, the case should be dealt with at Newcastle Crown Court.

She said: “This case is not suitable to be heard at magistrates’ court.

“Police found both bedrooms in the flat being used for the production of cannabis.

“There were 64 large plants and 63 smaller ones recovered, and the electricity meter had been bypassed.

“It was quite a sophisticated cannabis farm and the suggestion is that it is a commercial enterprise.”

Mrs Smith told magistrates that Benos was in the flat when police raided it.

She added: “If found guilty, the likelihood is that he will receive a custodial sentence.”

Benos will appear before magistrates again on February 15 when the case will be transferred to Newcastle Crown Court.

He was granted bail on the conditions that he lives and sleeps at the address given to court and is subject to an electronically-tagged curfew between 7pm and 7am.

He is the second person to appear in court recently charged with cultivating a cannabis farm.

On Sunday, officers raided a flat in nearby Talbot Road, South Shields, and discovered a farm with 172 plants in a loft.

Vietnamese Pham Thi Chou was arrested in connection with growing the drugs and appeared before magistrates on Tuesday.

The 51-year-old, of no fixed, abode, entered no plea to producing the Class B drug and was remanded in custody until January 29 when the case is expected to be transferred to Newcastle Crown Court.

Twitter: @ShieldsGazCrime