A TATTOO artist acted under financial pressure and was forced into growing cannabis for someone else, a court heard.

Johnathan Lee Reynolds, 41, was charged after 102 cannabis plants were found growing at the tattoo studio he was running in Buckley.

They were immature but if they all grew the potential yield was estimated by the prosecution to be in the region of £28,000.

Reynolds, of Brunswick Road, Buckley, admitted producing cannabis but escaped immediate custody.

He received a 52-week prison sentence, suspended for a year, at Mold Crown Court and was ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and pay costs of £1,200.

Judge Niclas Parry said Reynolds had made a conscious decision to flout the law and to become part of an enterprise that was creating illegal drugs.

“You knew they would be sold,” he said. “You agreed to become involved because you receive financial benefit.

“This was production for supply, for profit."”

Judge Parry said only a custodial sentence could be justified but he said Reynolds was not the main man behind the venture.

“The prosecution accept that you acted under financial pressure,” he said. “You were the lackey being paid by those who would have profited.”

Reynolds was an industrious man with no relevant previous convictions who had pleaded guilty and co-operated with the police.

David Mainstone, prosecuting, said at 6.15pm on February 26, police executed a search warrant in Brunswick Road. It was Reynolds’ property which had an empty retail shop downstairs and a tattoo studio above.

In a small room behind the shop police found the cannabis plants and a great deal of sophisticated equipment for growing cannabis, including ventilation, height adjustable lighting, timers and other items.

The plants were immature and a separate charge of possessing them with intent to supply was dropped after a leading case ruled that a defendant could not
possess the flowering heads with intent to supply at that stage because they had not yet grown and did not exist.

Reynolds was later arrested at a local pub and told officers: “Yes, I know what it is about. It is not mine. I was forced to do it.”

Interviewed, he admitted growing seeds obtained from Amsterdam, said he was growing it for himself, was more successful than he thought after planting a lot of seeds and only expecting a few to grow.

He told how he was heavily in debt with his business at the time.

Robin Boag, defending, said he would not mitigate after the judge indicated he had a suspended sentence in mind.