Redruth, Cornwall, UK – A FARMER who faced financial ruin and the loss of his family business turned to growing cannabis on an industrial scale, a court has heard.
Cattle farmer Alfred Phillips suffered terrible financial losses from BSE and foot and mouth crises and could see no option other than setting up a cannabis farm, the court heard.
Phillips, from Scorrier, near Redruth, walked free on Friday along with his accomplice, Tony Kilmartin, from Falmouth, after both pleaded guilty to drug offences.
The business partners had pledged to hand themselves in if the other was caught and after the arrest of Phillips in March, Kilmartin, a deep-sea diver, took himself to Camborne police station and confessed all.
Truro Crown Court heard that both men were prompted to set up the drug farm to escape serious financial hardship. They both co-operated fully with police and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity. These mitigating factors led to both men receiving a suspended sentence of 51 weeks from Judge Christopher Elwen.
Prosecuting barrister Ron Ede told the court that, when police called at Phillips’ Ambleside Farm in Wheal Rose, Scorrier, he led them to a barn about 30ft by 15ft, where he was growing about 200 cannabis plants. “Phillips told officers that this was their third yield and explained that he had become increasingly desperate to make a living in farming after foot and mouth outbreaks and increased feed costs,” said Mr Ede.
Sentencing the two men, Judge Elwen said: “The value of the yield might have been between £25,000 and £30,000.
“You were both in financial straits. You, Alfred Phillips, as a result of the depression in farming and episodes of foot and mouth and BSE.
“You got together and decided that one way of making money was to set up hydrophonic systems and lighting equipment and start growing cannabis.”
The judge said that Phillips’ full confession and Kilmartin’s handing himself over to police was extremely unusual.
He said: “Many people might have decided to break off the agreement, but you, Kilmartin, with considerable courage, decided to fulfil your side of the bargain.”
In mitigation, defence barrister Piers Norsworthy, representing Phillips, told the court that his client’s family had farmed the same 65-acre land since about 1880. The 160-cattle farm had been badly hit by BSE in 1997 and by foot and mouth in 2001 and 2006.
“One might be able to understand the pressure on a man to save his family farm and not to be seen a failure,” he said.
Robert Linford, defending Kilmartin, told the court his client was a commercial diver who had fallen into financial difficulty when work in the North Sea dried up.
Both men pleaded guilty to one count of producing a class C drug and one count of possession of a class C drug with intent to supply.
– Article from the Western Morning News, December 15, 2008.