Cannabis growers caught by police just start again

From left: James Plunkett, Daniel Plunkett, Neil Brooks
From left: James Plunkett, Daniel Plunkett, Neil Brooks
Chief Inspector Sharon Woolrich

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A GANG whose cannabis factory was busted by police promptly started another drugs-growing enterprise after being given bail.

Brothers James and Daniel Plunkett grew hundreds of cannabis plants at an abandoned property in Hayling Island and then at a house in Portsmouth.

A third man, their friend Neil Brooks, acted as a gardener and helped with the set-up of the nurseries, which yielded £500,000 worth of cannabis a year

Acting on a tip-off from a member of the public, police raided the first factory, at Yacht Haven in Hayling Island, arriving just in time as the gang were busy dismantling the operation.

Officers found a van loaded with the hydroponic and light equipment used to grow the plants, and a large electricity generator had been buried in the grounds of the secluded old building which lies at the end of a dirt track.

Another generator had been abandoned and there were nearly 600 cannabis plants still in the boarded-up property, as well as a loaded double- barrelled shotgun.

James Plunkett and Brooks were arrested after they tried to run away.

They were later released on police bail and, undeterred by the bust of that factory, simply moved the operation to Daniel Plunkett’s home in Peronne Close, Hilsea, Portsmouth.

But when police found DNA linking the men to the building in Hayling Island they raided Plunkett’s home and found another 740 plants.

The group had also bypassed the electricity meter to power the lights.

In total the plants from both factories would have produced £500,000 worth of cannabis a year, police say.

Detective Constable Danielle Johnson, of Waterlooville CID, said: ‘It’s been a long investigation and this is a good result.

‘This case is different because it was a very sophisticated set-up and we don’t normally come across factories of this size.

‘Obviously any disruption of the supply of drugs can only be a positive thing.’

At Portsmouth Crown Court, James Plunkett, 32, and Daniel Plunkett, 26, of different addresses in Peronne Close, pleaded guilty to two charges of producing a class B drug between February and October 2009. They claimed they were managing the operation for someone else.

James Plunkett also admitted possessing a firearm without a certificate.

Brooks, 41, of Howard Road, Hilsea, pleaded guilty to two charges of producing a class B drug on the basis that he was the gardener, between the same dates.

They are due to be sentenced in March.

Judge Roger Hetherington released the three men on bail but he warned: ‘That’s not to be taken as any indication of the eventual sentence.’

A fourth man, Louis Edwards, 32, of Torrington Road, North End, Portsmouth, had a charge of producing cannabis dropped.