Jarrow man converted flat into £20k cannabis farm to pay off drug debt
A man who set up a £20k cannabis farm in an upstairs flat to pay off a drugs debt has kept his freedom.
Police found a "professional set up" at the property in Blyth, Northumberland, where two bedrooms had been converted into "cannabis growing units".
Newcastle crown court heard the two rooms contained plastic sheets, transformers, vents and 48 mature plants.
The living room also contained a tent and was in the process of being transformed into another growing room.
The electricity at the flat had been bypassed.
Prosecutor Nicoleta Alistari told the court: "It appeared to be a professional set up.
"This set up was made to produce commercial quantities."
Miss Alistari said the crop had a potential yield of up to £20,000.
The court heard Dennis Slater, 33, of Lingside, Jarrow, was the registered tenant at the flat when it was raided in December last year.
Miss Alistari said: "He was arrested and interviewed and admitted the offence. He said he had a drug debt and his dealers had caught up with him.
"He said he had to set up the cannabis grow to be able to pay off the debt."
Slater admitted producing cannabis.
Judge Edward Bindloss sentenced him to 20 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with rehabilitation requirements and 150 hours unpaid work.
The judge said: "You couldn't repay the debt and you agreed to grow cannabis plants on behalf of someone else to pay off that debt."
Fiona Lamb, defending, said Slater is a family man who works full time and received help from a relative to pay off the debt he owed.