The drugs factory in a Flintshire street

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A MAN who set up a cannabis factory has been jailed.

More than 50 cannabis plants with a street value of almost £40,000 were discovered by officers at a property in Broughton, a court heard.

Speaking after the sentencing, investigating officer PC Anthony Butlin said: “It’s becoming more and more prevalent now for people to grow cannabis in their houses, attics or in commercial properties and I would urge anyone who suspects anything suspicious to report it.

“I would also like to encourage anyone to let us know if they notice people coming and going to places they thought were empty or if they can smell a strange smell in the air.”

Mark Christopher Axon, 28, had denied producing of cannabis at the four-bedroomed house in Fairfield Road, Broughton where 51 female flowering cannabis plants were found, with an estimated street value of £39,000.

He said he had rented the house out and blamed his tenants, but he was convicted at an earlier hearing.

Co-defendant Stephen Leonard Roberts, 41, admitted being concerned in the production of cannabis on the basis that he helped construct the growing areas.

His fingerprints had been found at the scene,Mold Crown Court heard.

Judge Niclas Parry said the men were part of a fairly sophisticated operation involving the production of tens of thousands of pounds worth of cannabis.

The judge told the court he was satisfied that after a small growing operation in Roberts’ loft was discovered and he was cautioned, a decision was made to transfer the operation to Axon’s house.

Roberts had the experience, including knowledge of how to use insulation to try to prevent the police helicopter heat detector picking the house out.

The judge said it had been Axon’s idea, he provided the transport for Roberts to attend the property and set up the equipment.

Prosecution witnesses, neighbours who gave evidence, could smell the stench of cannabis production from within their own homes.

Axon, of Cheyney Road, Chester, was an industrious man with no previous convictions who had never been to prison before, the court heard.

Roberts, crucially, had given evidence for the prosecution and the judge said he was satisfied that without that evidence, Axon would not have been convicted.

He would receive substantial credit for that and credit for his own guilty plea.

Roberts, of Raymond Street, Chester, received a 12-month jail sentence, suspended for a year.

He was also ordered to carry out 300 hours’ unpaid work.

Axon, a builder/joiner who also does music gigs, owns three properties.

His barrister, Debra White, said he appreciated that he now stood to lose some of the assets he had worked so hard to build up.

A defence expert put the potential street value of the recovered plants at £22,000 rather than the £39,000 suggested by the prosecution.

Now a specialist financial investigation is to take place to see how much, if any, of Axon’s assets can be confiscated.

Peter Moss, for Roberts, said his client had the courage to plead guilty and to give evidence for the prosecution.

See full story in the Leader

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