A garage man who bolstered his failing business by renting out workshops to cannabis growers has escaped jail.
Francis Woodward accepted £100 a week rent from a mystery drug grower named Wes but had no idea that plants with a potential yield of more than £200,000 were being cultivated.
Woodward runs a small gar repair yard at his elderly parents’ smallholding at North Tamerton, near Holsworthy, and kept them in the dark about his lucrative sideline.
Both his parents are in their 80s and when they queried a sudden rise in their electricity bill caused by sophisticated lighting systems he blamed it on increased use of paint spraying equipment.
Woodward, aged 46, admitted production of cannabis and was jailed for six months, suspended for a year, ordered to do 200 hours unpaid community work and pay £420 costs.
Recorder Mr William Andreae-Jones told him:”This was a fairly major undertaking and you allowed three crops to be grown and you made sure the lighting and irrigation was working.
“You were never more than a rude mechanical and had no management input at all. This was all a long way from your personal experience of life and you were rather bounced into it.
“You were paid £100 a week but of that £30 went to your mother to may the electricity bill. I take the view you had a lesser role.”
Miss Janice Eagles, prosecuting, said police raided the yard in May and found 99 plants in one outbuilding, 43 more in a caravan and £3,270 cash in a safe.
The plants would have produced between £10,000 and £72,000 per ten week cycle, depending on the number of seedlings that survived, and Woodward told them it was the third crop.
He said he had been pressured into growing them by a man called Wes who paid him £100 a week and who planted and harvested the crop.
Mr Christopher Andrews, defending, said Woodward’s role was restricted to checking the lighting and watering equipment was running smoothly and he had not been the grower.
He said:”He was naïve and did not realise the scale or value of the operation. He has never used cannabis or had anything to do with drugs. He was the man at the bottom who took the risk.
“His business was failing and he needed the money and that was what proved to be his ultimate weakness.”