Crown Court find Ripon illegal cannabis producers netted £55,950

28 March 2014

Five men convicted of drug offences after police uncovered a cannabis farm in Ripon have been found to have benefited from their illegal activity to the value of £55,950.

At a confiscation hearing at York Crown Court on Monday 24 March 2014, two of the men were ordered to repay £9,400 each, while the other three will have to repay their share as soon as they acquire any more assets.

The following four defendants were all sentenced to terms of imprisonment on 13 June 2013 for their part in the drugs set-up.

Ivan Paul Bellwood, 49, of East Park Mount, Leeds and Grant David Bilton, 23, of Broadway, Horsforth, near Leeds were both sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for cannabis production.

Peter David Michael Leek, 37, of Whitecliffe Crescent, Swillington, Leeds was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for cannabis production and possession of cannabis.

James Michael Cook, 32, of Haw Lane, Yeadon Leeds, was jailed for nine months for cannabis production.

David Peter Guest, 45, formerly of Boroughbridge Road, Ripon, was sentenced at York Crown Court on 10 June 2013 to 30 months’ imprisonment for production of cannabis and possession of cannabis.

The confiscation hearing on 24 March 2014, found that Guest had benefitted from his criminal enterprise to the value of £18,350 which includes his share in the value of the drugs and several cash payments which were made in setting up the premises in which the drugs were located.

The remaining four defendants were found to have benefited from their criminal activity to the value of £9,400 each.

Bellwood and Cook had sufficient realisable assets to meet their benefit from the offence and were each ordered to pay the sum of £9,400 each. Should the other defendants acquire suitable assets in the future, North Yorkshire Police will pursue them through the courts to recover the money.

Financial Investigator, Peter Mekins of North Yorkshire Police’s Financial Investigation Unit, said: Criminal activity does not pay and we will pursue criminals through the courts using the Proceeds of Crime Act to hit them in their pockets – where it hurts the most.

We will be relentless in our pursuit of any outstanding debt should the three remaining defendants acquire any assets in the future.

The men’s arrest and convictions came after officers executed a drugs warrant at a property on Boroughbridge Road, Ripon on 7 February 2011.

Four of the defendants were found in the double garage of the property, in the process of harvesting a substantial cannabis crop. The fifth (Guest) was the tenant of the property.

The garage of the property had been converted into a sophisticated hydroponic system and the quality of the cannabis was believed to be high.

The value of the cannabis recovered from the house was estimated to be around £47,000.

The police have issued the following advice to property landlords and letting agents to help protect their property from this practice.

Be suspicious of a prospective tenant’s willingness to pay months of rent in advance, or above the going rate, particularly in cash

Never accept rent in cash. Ask for bank account details.

Never accept tenants without checking references and backgrounds first

Be suspicious if a tenant never allows you access to the property or refuses you entry to certain rooms or areas of the property

If the tenant asks to meet you away from the property to pay rent, or to discuss anything about the accommodation

If the tenant puts deadlocks or alarms on internal doors, and has made attempts to install fortifications on the exterior of the property.

Also ensure that you always:

Ask applicants to provide photographic identification

Check a prospective tenant’s current address

Check a prospective tenant’s rental history

Obtain contact telephone numbers of all tenants and their car registration numbers.

If you suspect your property is being used in the production of cannabis,look out for signs of:

A strong, pungent smell coming from the property

Electrical wiring that has been tampered with

Beware of booby traps. Electrical wiring may have been rigged up to door handles etc.

Powerful lights left on in the house throughout the night

Windows blacked out

A sudden jump or increase in the cost of electricity bills

Scuffed paint or wallpaper

Large quantities of bin bags, full of vegetable material thrown away

Rewiring efforts or by-passed circuitry

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