A MAN was forced to turn his flat into a cannabis farm after he got into debt with the “Hendon Mad Dogs”.
Anthony Layton owed the notorious criminal gang £5,000 after he accidentally crashed his car into a van belonging to one of its members.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the 39-year-old was ordered set up a drugs factory at Ferndale Terrace, Pallion, where he converted two bedrooms into farms, capable of producing a £24,000 yield of the class B drug.
When the set-up, complete with carbon filters and additional lighting, was found by police, Layton confessed his involvement.
Prosecutor Claire Anderson told the court: “He said he had constructed the farm after he searched how to do it on You Tube.
“He had been heavily in debt with a member of a gang, the Hendon Mad Dogs.
“He could not afford to pay so as a result tried to produce cannabis to pay off the debt.”
Layton told police he had orders to divide the finished cannabis product into bags for it to be picked up, and once his debt was settled, he could dismantle the farm.
He pleaded guilty to production of cannabis and illegally abstracting over £1,300 of electricity.
Christopher Rose, defending, said: “He was put into this address essentially as a gardener.
“He had crashed a car into a van of a member of a serious, organised, criminal group in Sunderland, and essentially this was how he was to make amends.
“He was to receive no reward or payment other than it would reduce the debt it was said he now owed this individual.
“There were no specific threats, but there was a strong indication as to what would happen if he did not comply with this. “
Judge Deborah Sherwin sentenced Layton to nine months’ imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with supervision and 150 hours’ unpaid work.
The judge told him: “There was a degree of coercion which led to you doing this.
“I am entitled to suspend the sentence, bearing in mind the way you came to be involved in this matter.”