AN 83-year-old man believed to be one of the country’s oldest cannabis growers has been jailed.
Pensioner Francis Cook grew more than 180 plants of skunk – a potent form of the class B drug – at a cannabis factory in an industrial unit.
Police say the drugs being grown at the unit on Fort Fareham Industrial Estate could have netted about £71,000 a year when sold on the streets.
But the illegal operation was foiled when police raided Cook’s home – and found books on how to grow cannabis.
Officers seized £1,391 in cash, scales containing traces of cocaine, invoices for equipment and keys to the industrial unit in Cook’s Ford Escort van.
On searching the unit officers found 182 cannabis plants in three growing areas.
Cook’s fingerprints were found on a lightbulb and one of the growing areas.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard that Cook had been released from prison on licence but turned back to crime when he wrongly thought he owed £38,000 from a previous confiscation order made by the courts.
In his defence it was claimed he was paid £300 a month for acting as a caretaker and looking after the drugs crop.
But Judge Ian Pearson ruled that Cook played a significant role in the operation.
Cook, from Meadowbank Road, Fareham – who has a string of previous convictions for drug offences – pleaded guilty to one count of producing a class B drug between April and August last year.
He was jailed for two and a half years.
Judge Ian Pearson, sentencing, said: ‘I take account of your age – you are nearly 84 – you must be the country’s oldest drug dealer and you are in ill health.’
‘Having said that, you have numerous previous convictions for drug offences with numerous significant custodial sentences that arose from those offences.
‘You committed this offence while you were on licence. The number of plants being grown were fairly substantial and certainly approaching perhaps 200, and the potential yield if they have been completely successful again would have been substantial.
‘It’s a very sad day when I have to sentence an 83, nearly 84-year-old man for offences like these.’