A COUPLE who set up a major cannabis factory have been jailed for three-and-a-half years each.
Paul Birch and Tegwen Owen ran a sophisticated operation at an empty house they owned in Gosport, using thousands of pounds worth of equipment to grow the plants.
When police raided the house in Grove Road they found the whole place had been given over to producing the drug.
Four rooms contained a total of 132 plants while timers and pulleys were used to control hydroponic lights.
A fifth room, which was fitted with extractor fans and dehumidifiers, was used for drying the plants while another room was used for storing spare equipment and fertilizer.
The plants seized would have produced enough cannabis to make £33,400 a year, Portsmouth Crown Court heard.
Police also found shotgun cartridges and a receipt for £9,200 worth of equipment used for growing the plants following the raid in January 2011.
The couple initially denied being behind the factory.
Birch, 37, a landlord who owns 10 properties, told police he rented the house out and the drugs belonged to his tenants.
But the pair, who held hands as they were sentenced, owned up on the second day of their trial after they were confronted with overwhelming evidence.
Jailing them, Judge Sarah Munro QC said: ‘It’s quite clear that that house had been turned by you both into a cannabis factory.
‘Your fingerprints and DNA were found all over that equipment.
‘You were growing a large number of plants at various stages of maturity.’
She said Birch’s story about the drugs belonging to someone else was ‘wholly false’.
The court heard Birch had a previous conviction for dealing cannabis and for carrying counterfeit money.
The couple were charged with other drug offences after six cannabis plants and a small amount of cocaine were found at their home in Hartington Road, Gosport, along with £9,000.
Owen, 31, pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine and producing cannabis and Birch pleaded guilty to allowing his home to be used for producing cannabis.
There will be another court hearing in June when the crown will seek to claw back some of the money the pair made from selling cannabis.
After the hearing Detective Constable Jason Mann, who led the investigation, said: ‘It was a very well thought-out factory which would have taken some time to prepare and get up and running. The house had three floors with the two upper floors completely transformed into the factory.
‘People need to know that they can’t do this and if they get caught they are going to get a prison sentence.’