Mum and son involved with Doncaster cannabis farm

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A hard-up Doncaster mother and her son became involved in a cannabis set-up to clear debts, a court heard.

Police found drug equipment and plants worth more than £33,000 at two houses in Albany Road, Balby.

Ashley Hopwood, 23, masterminded the set-up and his mother Kathleen, 52, allowed her home to be used after receiving threats.

Electricity and gas officials executed a warrant at the house next door to where the Hopwoods lived, Sheffield Crown Court was told.

They found skunk cannabis was being grown upstairs in the unoccupied premises and the electricity meter had been bypassed and the gas supply tampered with.

Police were called and they discovered 24 plants in two bedrooms growing in tents, said Tamara Pawson, prosecuting.

The potential yield was 2.16 kilogrammes worth £21,600 on the streets.

Kathleen Hopwood was asked about the neighbouring house by police when she returned home that evening.

She tried to make excuses to leave but eventually allowed officers to search her home and a cannabis growing set-up was found in the basement.

There were 1.177 grammes of skunk drying out which had a street value of £11,770.

Her son’s bedroom was searched and police found a dealer list, cannabis seeds, a cannabis cultivation guide and receipts for growing equipment found in both properties.

Messages on his mobile phone last August and September related to drugs such as “It smells on the front of weed” and “Will you bring that trim round so it doesn’t go bad?”

Mrs Hopwood told police she was totally unaware of what was growing next door and the back gates to her neighbours had been smashed on numerous occasions so it was easy to get in.

She had been under pressure from threats of violence and had allowed somebody else to use her property.

Her son first told officers he had been growing cannabis at home to make extra cash then later that his mother had been put under pressure to store the skunk which was nothing to do with him.

He denied all knowledge of the cannabis next door and said his finger-prints were on growing equipment there because he had bought such equipment in the past.

His mother had incurred debts to others and she had been threatened. He became involved in the cannabis growing set-up next door because of this.

The Hopwoods both admitted producing cannabis and possession with intent to supply on January 17, 2014.

Robert Sandford, for Ashley Hopwood said there was a “genuine fear” on his part and he had a hand in supplying growing equipment to both houses.

He was a hard-worker who brought home £400 a week and was caring for his grandparents, one of whom was quite ill.

Laura Marshall, for Mrs Hopwood said she had medical problems. The basis of her plea was not given in public.

Judge Robert Moore jailed Ashley Hopwood for 20 months. He said: “For reasons of fear and extra cash you spent five months setting up and running for others two separate cannabis production systems that had the potential to make a lot of money.”

He told Kathleen Hopwood: “Fate has dealt you a far worse package of events than I could.”

She was given a 12-month community order with supervision and will have to undertake a women’s specified activity project for 14 days.

Proceeds of crime hearings have already been pencilled in and the judge ordered confiscation of the drugs and growing equipment.