A CROWN court judge has called on police to bring down drug “gangmasters” after a second Vietnamese farmer was jailed in less than a week for growing cannabis on Wearside.
Judge Brian Forster sentenced illegal immigrant Nam Nguyen, 22, to 16 months at Newcastle Crown Court yesterday after officers discovered a £600,000 farm on the ground floor and loft at a property in Chester Road, Sunderland, on January 13.
And on Monday, the same judge handed a 20-month jail term to 34-year-old Long Cao after a £100,000 farm was smashed at an address in nearby St Mark’s Road, on January 3.
On January 16, police seized 100 cannabis plants at Western Hill in Eden Vale – just yards from the other farms – together with associated heating and lighting equipment.
Police said inquiries into that are still ongoing
Judge Forster said this was the third similar case to come before him in the space of three days and urged police to track down those behind the illegal operations.
He said: “The court hopes that the police will concentrate their efforts on bringing the gangmasters before this court.”
The court heard how two officers on the beat noticed a strong odour coming from one of the houses as they walked along Chester Road in Sunderland on January 13.
When the police approached the property, Nguyen ran out into the winter evening in just a T-shirt and shorts.
Nguyen had been hired to work as a gardener to tend to the crops at the sophisticated operation running inside.
Officers found 284 plants on the ground floor and the loft which had an estimated value of £600,000.
Nguyen was jailed after he admitted production of cannabis.
Jailing him, Judge Forster told him: “You came from Vietnam to the UK in pursuit of a dream, you entered as an illegal immigrant, but your life was not as you expected.
“You fell into the hands of gangmasters and they recruited you to work in a cannabis farm.
“Your circumstances were such, in reality, you had little choice.
“This court has to deter people who run and work in such large-scale operations.
“This was a sophisticated operation and the potential yield of cannabis was more than £500,000.”
Jamie Adams, defending, said Nguyen has had an unhappy time since leaving Vietnam and added: “All he wants is to go back home to be with his family.”
The court heard the Border Agency will order Nguyen’s deportation as a result of the sentence.
Cao, who pleaded guilty to production of cannabis on the basis he was a gardener hired by others, working under orders to look after the plants, is also likely to be deported.