Man responsible for St Albans cannabis factory in court

A CANNABIS grower caught with almost 100 plants claimed the drugs were for personal use and that he smoked up to 30 spliffs a day.

The fire brigade were dealing with a leak at the address in Prospect Road, St Albans, when they stumbled across the sophisticated small-scale cannabis factory in the loft space.

Police officers arrived later that day Friday, September 10, and were let in by 43-year-old Simon Shergold, who lived in an upstairs flat, and he later pleaded guilty to cultivating class B drug cannabis but insisted it was for his personal use.

At St Albans Crown Court earlier this week Charles Judge, prosecuting, said police noticed metal ducting going into the loft and investigated to find a total of 92 cannabis plants in various stages of growth – 58 small plants in one section and 34 more mature plants in the other.

Mr Judge described how the inside walls and roof had been covered with a reflective metallic material, and there was hydroponics growing equipment including strong lights, an extractor unit, thermometers, pump and fans to keep the plants at a constant temperature.

The plants, some of which had flowering female heads often referred to as ‘skunk’, were said to “appear to be growing healthily in the conditions” but the prosecution conceded that it was impossible to say what the yield from the plants would be.

Mr Judge said the majority of plants were too young to establish the THC level - the chemical which gives users a ‘high’ – but that the maximum amount of usable drug produced would be 3.6kgs.

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Police also seized more than �3,000 in cash from a safe, which Shergold claimed to have made from previous work he had carried out.

Joanna Fisher, for the defence, insisted that all the drugs were to be consumed by her client, who had been using cannabis since the age of 16 in “increasing quantities”. She said: “He began growing his own a couple of years ago and smokes between 20 and 30 spliffs a day.”

Judge Andrew Bright QC found Shergold’s story “unfeasible” and ordered a hearing on Wednesday to establish the facts before sentencing.

At that hearing Judge John Plumstead imposed a four-month prison sentence, which he suspended for two years. Shergold was also fined �2,500 and ordered to pay costs totalling �1,000. A forfeiture and destruction order was made on the drugs and other paraphernalia.