Belfast Telegraph

Cannabis grower who couldn't sell crop avoids prison

A father who grew a crop of cannabis to fund his sons' dreams of becoming motorcycle aces told police he had no idea how to sell the drug on, a court has heard.

Paul Michael English - who legally bought cannabis seeds, but then illegally cultivated them - was freed on a suspended three-year jail term at Antrim Crown Court yesterday.

English (56) managed to grow 700 plants with a street value of £280,000.

Prosecutor Laura Levers said that English's get-rich-quick scheme came apart when firemen tackling a blaze at an outbuilding at his Gillistown Road home in Ahoghill last December uncovered the cannabis factory and informed police.

The lawyer said English, whose sentence was suspended for three years, had lamps, ventilators and other equipment for what was a "sophisticated operation" for the cultivation of cannabis plants.

However, Ms Levers said it was "an unusual case" in that English candidly admitted growing the drugs to sell them on to help pay for his two sons' involvement in the motorcycle racing scene, which was becoming expensive.

However, when police asked him how he planned to contact drug dealers to sell the cannabis, he admitted: "I don't know... I've really no idea where to start."

Defence lawyer Neil Moore said that English had legitimately bought a magazine on growing cannabis, with a sample of seeds, and decided to "give this a go".

But he was also "a man who knows nobody in the drugs scene... and has no idea where to start," the lawyer said.

He told the court that following an accident last November, which had left him partly brain damaged, English has not been able to work, and should have told his sons he could no longer afford to help them.

Passing sentence, Judge Corinne Philpot said she found it "hard to understand why it is illegal to cultivate cannabis but not illegal to have the means" to grow it, and how it was "possible to sell the seeds so long as you don't cultivate them".

She added that given English's medical condition, she would suspend his sentence as she could see no real advantage in jailing him.

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