Tree surgeon jailed after growing cannabis to pay off loan sharks

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A TREE surgeon has been jailed for using his horticultural expertise to grow thousands of pounds worth of cannabis.

Andrew Wilson, 28, was jailed for two years and eight months yesterday after he was caught growing 229 plants in the house where he lived with his wife and five children.

Police also discovered a similar operation at house nearby which Wilson rented.

Leeds Crown Court heard Wilson turned to crime to pay off loan sharks he borrowed from after his business as a tree surgeon suffered.

Louise Pryke, prosecuting, said officers executed a search warrant at Wilson’s home on Cross Flatts Avenue, Beeston, Leeds, on September 3 this year and discovered the plants in upstairs rooms.

The rooms were fitted with sophisticated watering and lighting systems and extractor fans. A total of 267 plants were also found at a property nearby on Cross Flatts Terrace.

The plants were capable of producing around 7kgs of cannabis, with a street value of around £64,000.

Wilson had also bypassed the electricity to both properties as part of the operation.

The estimated loss to the electricity company was around £5,000.

Wilson pleaded guilty to two offences of producing a class B drug and two of extracting electricity.

Jayne Dodson, mitigating, said Wilson had grown the plants out of desperation after being threatened by people he owed money to.

She said Wilson had worked as a tree surgeon and had a contract with the council until it was ended.

He was then unable to borrow money to buy equipment and resorted to “unconventional means”.

Mrs Dodson said the people he borrowed the money from had attacked him and he suffered head injuries.

He moved home with his family but they found him and suggested he grow the drug to help pay off the debt. Mrs Dodson added that Wilson was full shame for what he had done and the trouble it had caused for his family.

Jailing him, judge Guy Kearl QC said: “You are experienced in the field of horticulture and you knew what you were doing.”

The judge also told Wilson that the fact he was growing cannabis while five children were living in the house aggravated the offences.