Judge cuts jail time for cannabis farmer over 'unsatisfactory and unexplained' police delays
A judge slashed the potential jail sentence for a man caught operating a cannabis factory because of the "unsatisfactory and unexplained" delay by police and the Public Prosecution Service in finalising the case.
Judge Philip Babington said while the appropriate term was three years and seven months, he was instead jailing the defendant for 20 months.
Lloyd Alan Porter (42), a father-of-three from Tirruadh Road in Draperstown, will serve half of the sentence in prison and the rest on licence.
Porter started cultivating cannabis after his joinery business collapsed almost five years ago.
He was caught growing 250 cannabis plants with a potential street value of £125,000 when police searched his then home at Ballyhone Road in Maghera on November 7, 2013.
The cannabis factory, which contained carbon filters, fans, a lighting system and a sophisticated irrigation system to water the plants, was inside a garage roof space beside the house.
Porter also admitted illegally extracting £12,000 worth of electricity by digging up the main electricity supply cable to his premises and fixing a joint onto it to illegally divert power into the cannabis farm.
Sentencing him at the Crown Court in Derry, Judge Babington said the defendant had 43 previous convictions, mainly for traffic offences.
He said the cannabis farm "was a calculated defiance of the law" and that the defendant had shown no consideration in terms of the damage the drugs he was caught cultivating could have caused to users.
The judge said Porter had engaged in offending to pay off debts and that he had been described in a pre-sentence report as a premeditated risk taker.
He criticised what he described as the unexplained and unsatisfactory delay by the police and the prosecution in finalising the case. He said they had a duty to prosecute cases expeditiously.
The judge said Porter was caught, arrested and charged four-and-a-half years ago, and had not reoffended since.
He said the defendant deserved credit for that and for pleading guilty to the two offences.
He added Porter deserved an allowance for the delay by the police and prosecution.
He then imposed a 20-month jail sentence.