Police uncover £35,000 cannabis factory at Portchester home

A MAN caught growing £35,000 worth of cannabis at home has been spared jail.

Police uncovered a 'cottage industry' set-up at Mark Colwell's home in Portchester on April 25 with 38 plants growing under hydroponics and lights.

Mark Colwell outside Portsmouth Magistrates' Court

Mark Colwell outside Portsmouth Magistrates' Court

Portsmouth Crown Court heard the 35-year-old told police he smoked up to an ounce a week – but a judge said in all probability he had 'intended to sell some of it for financial gain'.

Debt-laden Colwell, then of Olive Crescent, Portchester, claimed he switched to growing his own to cut costs after taking on too much credit.

A police drug expert said the plants would have been worth £18,000 wholesale or £35,000 on the streets.

Electricity had been bypassed, with Colwell's set-up stealing £896 worth of electricity from the supplier.

Mark Colwell, 35, now of Gladys Avenue, North End, was caught growing 75,000 worth of cannabis at his former home in Portchester. He was handed a suspended prison sentence for growing the class B drug and bypassing the electricity meter.  Picture: CPS Wessex

Mark Colwell, 35, now of Gladys Avenue, North End, was caught growing 75,000 worth of cannabis at his former home in Portchester. He was handed a suspended prison sentence for growing the class B drug and bypassing the electricity meter. Picture: CPS Wessex

In court it was revealed Colwell, now of Gladys Avenue, North End, had been jailed for four years when he was convicted of possession with intent to supply class A drugs in 1999.

And in 2014 magistrates handed him a community order for producing cannabis, a class B drug.

Handing Colwell a two-year term suspended for two years, judge Roger Hetherington said: 'I'm extremely sceptical whether all of this was for your own use.

'I think the probability was that you were intending to sell some of it for financial gain in order to assist with your debts but I don't make a specific finding about that.

Mark Colwell, 35, now of Gladys Avenue, North End, was caught growing 75,000 worth of cannabis at his former home in Portchester. He was handed a suspended prison sentence for growing the class B drug and bypassing the electricity meter.  Picture: CPS Wessex

Mark Colwell, 35, now of Gladys Avenue, North End, was caught growing 75,000 worth of cannabis at his former home in Portchester. He was handed a suspended prison sentence for growing the class B drug and bypassing the electricity meter. Picture: CPS Wessex

'In order do that it seems I have to have a Newton hearing and clear evidence about the matter, I'm not in a position to do that today.'

The judge said Colwell's previous convictions made his serious position 'worse'.

Howard Barrington-Clark, mitigating, said Colwell's marriage had collapsed, leading to him falling into debt.

'He ran up massive bills on the credit card, he was lonely and depressed.’

Mark Colwell, 35, now of Gladys Avenue, North End, was caught growing 75,000 worth of cannabis at his former home in Portchester. He was handed a suspended prison sentence for growing the class B drug and bypassing the electricity meter. Picture: CPS Wessex

Mark Colwell, 35, now of Gladys Avenue, North End, was caught growing 75,000 worth of cannabis at his former home in Portchester. He was handed a suspended prison sentence for growing the class B drug and bypassing the electricity meter. Picture: CPS Wessex

The lawyer said Colwell’s ‘habit increased deeply’.

Colwell, who admitted producing cannabis and abstracting electricity, must complete 30 rehabilitation activity days and pay £896 compensation to the electricity company.

He had admitted what he did to police when he was arrested, the court heard.

The cannabis factory at Mark Colwell's home. Picture: CPS Wessex

The cannabis factory at Mark Colwell's home. Picture: CPS Wessex