Couple set up drugs farm after losing their jobs

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A YOUNG couple turned to dealing drugs to make ends meet after losing their jobs.

 Business was brisk for Gareth Tomlinson and Kelly Bayles until police raided their cannabis farm, Durham Crown Court heard.

 “The grow was in a flat in Horden,” said Chris Baker, prosecuting.

 “Both defendants were there when police arrived.

 “There was the remains of 11 cannabis plants in a tent with a light above, and in another room more than 50 snap bags containing cannabis leaf.

 “Police recovered £817.14 in cash from a box under a bed. The estimated street value of the cannabis in the bags and from the plants is in excess of £3,000.”

 The court heard Tomlinson told police he had been given the seeds and growing equipment by a friend called Craig, who had also offered tips on cultivation.

 Mr Baker added: “He told the couple if they grew fewer than 12 plants they would be left alone by police.

 “He also advised them to buy a cheap mobile for dealing to make it harder for police to track them down, and to save them from being bothered by customers on the phones they already had.

 “In exchange, he wanted half the yield.”

 Tomlinson, 21, and Bayles, 20, of Alisha Vale, Easington Colliery, admitted possession of a class B drug with intent to supply it on January 10.

 Ron Mitchell, defending Tomlinson and Bayles, said in mitigation: “They are in this together, and neither is seeking to blame the other.

 “Mr Tomlinson was unusually frank with police, which suggests they are naive, rather than sophisticated, criminals.

 “Neither has any criminal convictions, and both are now back in work.

 “My submission is the inevitable sentence of custody can be suspended.”

 Judge Stephen Ashurst sentenced both Tomlinson and Bayles to six months in prison, suspended for one year, and 180 hours of community work.

 The judge said: “I think you are fortunate you were caught when you were, because as this enterprise developed it would have dragged you into much deeper criminal waters.

 “Happily, your offending was literally nipped in the bud by the police.

 “I agree you are both naive and unlikely to offend again.”

 The judge ordered the confiscation of the drugs seized, and ordered the £817.14 to be added to Durham Police’s community fund for the fight against crime.