A Thanet couple each received jail sentences on Monday, kissing each other goodbye in the dock.
Electrician Mark Handford went to the cells to begin a four-year prison term for his part in setting up a £180,000 cannabis operation. And wife Nichola, a teaching assistant, received an eight-month sentence, suspended for two years. The couple, both 41, of High Street, Manston had hugged in the dock before the sentencing at Canterbury Crown Court.
Handford had admitted the production of 167 cannabis plants – with a sophisticated hydroponics system and powered with electricity used illegally after re-wiring the supply. After kissing a tearful Nichola goodbye he then waved to family and friends in the public gallery. The court heard how police raided the home they shared with their 14-year-old son and found the plants in three stages of growth, some of the plants in a shed.
Judge Adele Williams heard that the plants could have yielded Mark Handford up to £180,000 if the drugs were sold on the streets. Officers also discovered £12,000 in cash in a bedroom. His lawyer initially argued the cannabis was for his own use because of a chronic back problem caused by a car accident in 1998 but eventually Handford accepted the prosecution case that the cannabis would be used for a commercial purpose.
Mrs Handford had admitted allowing her home to be used for the production of the drug and the couple both admitted abstracting £665 worth of electricity. Judge Williams told Mark Handford that his attempt initially to avoid accepting the full prosecution case “does you no credit whatsoever." She added: “It does not demonstrate true remorse and this was a sophisticated operation. These plants were in various stages of growth with a view of commercial supply. It is urged on this court that this began because of your chronic back pain which may be the background to this offence but cannot possibly excuse the extent of this enterprise.”
The judge added that he had directed the illegal operation intending to pocket “substantial gain."
“You were doing this at the family home where your 14-year-old child lived and you were abstracting electricity.”
Handford was jailed for four years and the judge ordered a financial investigation into his wealth under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Judge Williams then ordered Nichola Handford to do 120 hours of unpaid work for the community, telling her: “By allowing this enterprise you have put in jeopardy your liberty and your employment as a teaching assistant.
“You allowed your husband to do what he wanted to do without questioning the extent of the enterprise or its consequences.”
By Julia Collins - Kent Online/April 19, 2016
Photo: stock - pixelfusionen/deviantart
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