‘Foolish’ elderly cannabis couple are spared jail
‘Two foolish old people’ whose secluded farmhouse hid a £300,000 cannabis factory have been spared jail.
Police found mature plants in a ‘sophisticated’ growing environment, including lights and watering equipment, at the Old Vicarage in Aymestrey, near Leominster – the home of Philip and Ann Smith.
Philip Smith, aged 69, and Ann Smith, 65, a former regional nursing director for the Royal College of Nursing, were found guilty of producing cannabis after a trial at Worcester Crown Court in September last year.
They were both handed suspended sentences in July, but faced being sent to prison after the Attorney General, Jeremy Wright QC, referred their case to the Court of Appeal.
Lawyers for Mr Wright argued their sentences were ‘far too lenient’ given the amount of drugs involved. But Lord Justice Davis said that, while the punishment they received was ‘very benevolent’, it would not be right for the Appeal Court to lock them up now.
The court heard officers raided the property in February 2015 and found two rooms of the couple’s home had been converted to grow cannabis plants.
There were books on cannabis production, handwritten instructions and bags filled with cannabis leaves, flower heads and straw.
A search of another property on their land, a barn which had been converted into a holiday let, uncovered more plants and growing equipment. In total, 473 plants were found, along with 108 seedlings and some harvested cannabis, with a wholesale value of £295,000.
The court heard the Smiths both denied knowing anything about the plants, claiming another man, who was never traced, was responsible for the cannabis factory. However, a jury found them guilty of producing cannabis.
Three other men who admitted producing cannabis at the farm were handed community sentences in November last year.
Sentencing the couple, the Crown Court judge said he saw them as ‘two foolish old people’ who had made very bad judgment. He said they didn’t have the necessary skills to set the factory up, nor any contacts in the drugs world, and it was clear Ann Smith had given minimal support, but turned a blind eye to what was going on.
The judge also found that he could not be sure £40,000 paid into the couple’s bank account in the months before the raid was their profit from the factory.
The court heard Ann Smith was the sole carer for her husband – who has serious health problems – and her stepson.
Rejecting the Attorney General’s bid to have their sentences increased, Lord Justice Davis ruled they were not unduly lenient.
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