A couple used a secret door connecting their two attics to run a large-scale cannabis farm.
When police raided the homes of Jamie Fahy, 38, and Donna Jones, 41, they found 135 cannabis plants with a potential street value of £170,100. Liverpool Crown Court heard on Monday May 16 how cannabis was grown for ‘subsequent wholesale supply’ and there were incriminating messages on their mobile showing the sophisticated business.
Jones’ meter was bypassed to power the operation and £239,000 of electricity had been illegally used in the eight months prior to the raid. But a judge let Fahy and Jones off the dock.
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Nardeen Nemat, prosecuting, had told court police, armed with a drugs warrant, that they raided Fahy’s home in Linner Road, Speke on January 18 last year. A total of 98 mature cannabis plants were found in three bedrooms and the attic.
Ms Nemat said: “They found a hidden door in the paneling which allowed a person to crawl to the next door. The couple were in a relationship at the time.”
Officers attended Jones’ home and found the electricity meter had been bypassed and there were 53 cannabis plants in his attic. The couple’s mobile phones were seized and contained messages relating to both supply and production.
They were consistent with the people working for them, Miss Nemat said. When asked, Jones, a mother of two adult sons, said she had paid someone £80 to fill her electricity meter eight months earlier because she had a catalog of debts.
She claimed the attic door was locked and she knew nothing about the cannabis production going on. Fahy admitted to accessing his attic through the door but did not answer any further questions.
They both pleaded guilty to producing cannabis and taking electricity. Ken Heckle, defending, said Fahy, who has 11 prior convictions but none for drugs, is caring for his sick mother and no other relatives can help.
Mr Heckle said: ‘He put himself and his mum in this position and no one else. Maybe he doesn’t have a consistent reflection on what he’s gotten into.
He had worked most of his life, but was later fired and started using cocaine. Mr Heckle said that ‘he was refreshingly honest and said he was in drug debt and the only way out was to start growing cannabis’.
Jones’ attorney, Matthew O’Neill, said she hired the offices “to pay off debts. She was in rent arrears and had high interest loans and she decided in tandem with her co-defendant to produce that amount of cannabis. She had raised her two sons alone and if imprisoned she would lose the accommodation she shares with them.
She has no previous convictions and has been a victim of domestic violence which has affected her mental health. She uses cocaine recreationally and does not believe she needs intervention in this regard, Mr O’Neill said.
Sentencing the two defendants to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, the judge, recorder Michael Blakey, said they had both played “an important role”. He continued, “Looking at the case as a whole, this is a fair and appropriate sentence for both of you.”
He said he had also heeded advice on considering prison conditions due to Covid restrictions. He ordered them both to perform 100 hours of unpaid labor and a six-month drug treatment course.
Recorder Blakey said he had taken into account the medical difficulties of Fahy and his mother and had been problem-free for eight years. He told Jones he was taking into account that she would lose her home if sent straight to jail.
He said: “A realistic prospect of rehabilitation is something I accept as quite likely. You both have strong personal attenuation and it seems to me immediate custody would have a detrimental effect on others. “