Drug user stole electricity to power his ‘cannabis factory’

Burnley Magistrates Court.
Burnley Magistrates Court.

A drug user who had a £6,400 “cannabis factory” at his Burnley home helped himself to almost £5,000 of electricity to grow it, a court heard.

The town’s magistrates were told how Robert Hepworth (47) was cultivating 16 plants, using six transformers and nine industrial bulbs, as well as having by-passed his electricity meter. The “naive” defendant let officers in to have a look.

Hepworth claimed the drugs would be for his own use - although he only took cannabis once a week.

The defendant, of Clifton Street, Burnley, admitted producing cannabis and abstracting £4,824 worth of electricity on February 1. Hepworth, who is unemployed, received a 12 month community order, with 100 hours unpaid work and must pay £85 costs and a £60 victim surcharge.

Bench chairman Neil Tranmer told the defendant, who had no previous convictions: “We do accept the prosecution view there may be a significant role because you were clearly understanding the operations involved in producing this cannabis.”

Prosecutor Mrs Alex Mann told the hearing police went round to the defendant’s house on an unrelated inquiry and could smell cannabis. She said: “They go inside and found what they describe as a cannabis factory.”

She added the police reported if the drugs were bring grown for sale, 640 grams would be cropped and the cannabis would be worth £6,400.

Mr Nick Cassidy, in mitigation, said Hepworth was quite naive and invited the police in to have a look. He continued: “There is absolutely no telephone evidence to suggest this defendant was involved in drug dealing or anything of that nature. There was no cash or dealer’s list.”

The solicitor continued: “The defendant’s recollection is that there were 10 plants. There is no evidence this was a large scale commercial operation. This is consistent with small scale production or cultivation for personal use.”

Mr Cassidy said Hepworth had lived at the property for six years, many months ago was shown how to by-pass the meter and had benefitted from it. He went on: “There is no surrounding evidence to back up the police’s view in relation to this defendant.” The solicitor added the defendant was paying the money back to the electricity provider.