Father and son spared jail after police discover a large-scale commercial cannabis farm in South Shields

A dad and son have kept their freedom after turning a blind eye to a large-scale commercial cannabis farm found in a converted former church building.

Police raided the premises, which was being used for Chad Dunn's motor mechanic business, in June 2019 and found a "professionally operated" illegal growing enterprise, containing 161 cannabis plants, from 2cm to 6ft high.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the upper part of the building, at Hudson Street, South Shields, contained seven separate growing areas, with plants, tents and specialist cultivation equipment.

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The basement was also being used for the illegal enterprise, where electricity worth £164,484 had been bypassed.

Newcastle Crown Court. Newcastle Crown Court.
Newcastle Crown Court.
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Police seized plants worth up to £23,000 as well as 137 bagged one-ounce deals, worth up to £20,000.

Prosecutor Paul Cleasby told the court: "Some plants were cropped and bagged, ready to be supplied onto the streets and some of the cannabis was ready to be cropped or harvested. Some were at the early stage of development.

"The scale of the operation was obviously commercial.

"Obviously the plants would require regular attention as the owners would want to ensure they remained in prime condition, to maximise yield. They would need to be watered regularly and fed regularly.

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"Once the plants were ready they would need to be cropped and packaged for onward supply."

Father and son Nevil Dunn and Chad Dunn, who leased the property for the motor business and kept dogs there, admitted involvement on the basis they allowed parts of the building to be used by others, but had no part in the cannabis farm and ignored its presence.

Nevil Dunn, 55, of Hopkins Walk, South Shields and Chad Dunn, Chad Dunn, 31, of Inverness Road, Jarrow both pleaded guilty to being concerned in the production of cannabis.

They were both sentenced to 18 weeks imprisonment, suspended for 12 months £750 costs. Dunn jnr must also carry out 100 hours unpaid work.

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Robin Patton, defending Dunn Jnr, who traded as a mechanic there, said the building was in an industrial area and added: "When people decide the room you are using would be better use for them, and you don't have a lot of options about this, for someone of good character and not used to dealing with this sort of thing, his options were limited."

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