A ONCE-successful businessman recruited to build a hydroponics system at a North Wales cannabis factory has escaped immediate imprisonment.

Paul Sharpe, 42, fell on hard times and was offered cash to set up the system at a cottage at Bersham near Wrexham.

But he was arrested at Papermill Cottage on the evening of April 20 when police searched the property.

Mold Crown Court heard they found Sharpe crouched inside a wooden sauna with a towel over his head.

At his feet was a bag containing dried herbal cannabis and a small amount of cannabis resin.

In interview, he made no comment but in a prepared statement told how he had been recruited to build the planting system. He said he had been living there due to problems with the generator.

Sharpe, of Wesley Street, Stockport, received a 52-week prison sentence,
suspended for two years. He was placed on supervision and ordered to carry out 80 hours unpaid work.

Judge Dafydd Hughes told Sharpe he knew full well the system would be used for the production of cannabis. He said: “It was clearly part of a sophisticated operation and your part in it was crucial.

“Without the equipment, there would be no possibility of producing the drug in the quantities required for commercial purposes. Having said that, I accept that your part was limited.”

The court heard the cottage had been rented out in the middle of 2008 and in April this year police executed a search warrant. One room in an outbuilding was found to contain a sophisticated cannabis factory.

There were 230 plants about 24 inches high and the estimated yield was 7.4 kilogrammes with a potential street value of £52,800.

Damien Zelazowski, defending, said his client formerly ran a successful company. But following a split with his wife his business suffered and he ran into financial