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Man brandished iron bar in Bideford town centre chemist after row

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: January 10, 2013

TRIAL: Exeter Crown Court.

SHOPPERS were left terrified when a man with an iron bar started a fight inside a chemist in the centre of Bideford.

Andrew Bannister, 49, smashed a £300 window at Boots as he lashed out in full sight of customers including a young mother with her year-old son in a baby buggy.

He was later found with a secret cannabis farm at his home when police went to investigate the attack, Exeter Crown Court was told.

The professional gardener, who has worked at the Royal Horticultural Society's property at Rosemoor, turned his skills to setting up his own drug-growing operation in a room hidden behind a cupboard at his Bideford home.

Bannister, of Allhalland Road, Bideford, admitted producing cannabis, threatening behaviour, possessing an offensive weapon, and criminal damage.

He was jailed for nine months, suspended for a year, curfewed for three months, and ordered to do 120 hours unpaid community work by Judge John Neligan.

He told him: "You say you found this iron bar and picked it up instead of tripping over it. That is fanciful in the extreme.

"You got into an argument and used the bar as a weapon and I'm afraid that calls for a prison sentence.

"I accept you were not going to supply the cannabis to anyone else and the mitigation is such in this case that I can suspend the sentence."

David Bowen, for the prosecution, said Bannister was in Boots in the High Street in Bideford in September when he got into an argument with another man with whom he exchanged blows before producing a piece of scaffolding pole.

Mr Bowen said: "He swung the pole back, breaking a window and there is a statement from another customer who was there with her young son in a baby buggy.

"She says she was two to three metres away and unable to escape because Bannister was in the entrance. She describes how her son was distressed and crying and both she and her child were shaken up by the incident and the boy could not sleep that night because of it."

Mr Bowen said when police went to Bannister's home they found 28 cannabis plants growing behind a plastic sheet in his bedroom and eight more in a secret compartment behind a cupboard.

Experts reckoned the plants could have a potential yield of £15,000 but this was disputed by the defendant who insisted it was all for his own use.

Richard Crabb, for the defence, said his client is a long-term cannabis user and was growing it for himself and police found no evidence of dealing.

He said Bannister is a gardener who is currently unemployed.

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