THREE ‘career criminals’ have been jailed for trying to steal cannabis on an ‘industrial scale’ at a business park.
Around 300 plants were growing in a cannabis factory in Speedfields Park, Fareham, when the trio smashed a window to get inside.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard two of the men, Steven Saunders and James Rowe, were caught in the act when a passer-by raised the alarm.
The third man, David Boam, was arrested later after dropping his mobile phone at the burglary. Fingerprints linked the other two men.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard they had cut plants from the crop and put them in seven bags beside their BMW 1 Series getaway car.
The owner of the unit, David Garland, also rushed there. At first he told police: ‘These were my property, nobody had permission to cut them down and take them.’
Nicholas Hall, prosecuting at the burglars’ sentencing hearing last month, said: ‘The industrial unit turns out not to be what one might expect of an industrial unit in Fareham, since it was a fairly large and sophisticated cannabis factory. These three, or a combination of them, had broken a window to the side and managed to get in.
‘What these defendants had been doing was to target the plants which were matured.
‘They had placed the plants in seven bags. These matured plants were all bagged up to take away and left outside the smashed window.’
Such was the extent of the crop that a PC said: ‘The car was filled with the overpowering smell of cannabis as if we, the police, had just driven through a field of cannabis.’
During the hearing Judge Christopher Parker QC said: ‘It’s very difficult to put this in the conventional sentencing guidelines with three career criminals attempting to steal an illicit crop from another criminal or criminals.’
He added: ‘They would have got away with it, but the owner of the crop installed security that matched the industrial scale.’
Rowe has 27 convictions for 62 offences, Boam 70 for 189, and Saunders on 36 for 102.
Robert Bryan for Boam, said his client had been the victim of a stabbing in Somers Road, Somers Town, on March 3.
Boam, 50, of Lords Street, Landport, spent 16 days in hospital and needed 60 staples.
The court heard Saunders, 46, of Stride Avenue, Baffinss, provided the vehicle.
Rowe, 46, of Quinton Close, Somers Town, had no previous burglary convictions.
Saunders was jailed for 15 months. He admitted burglary before Boam and Rowe, who were jailed for 18 months for the August 26, 2015 burglary.
Garland, 52, then of Kingston Road, Gosport, was charged with producing cannabis but later admitted perverting the course of justice over a false statement, saying the drugs were his, and permitting his premises to be used for production of cannabis. He was spared prison.