Cannabis equipment shop workers behind bars in West Midlands first

Eleven shop owners and workers were today sentenced for selling specialised gardening equipment to grow cannabis in the West Midlands.

Cannabis equipment shop workers behind bars in West Midlands first

The stores in the Black Country and Birmingham were targeted by detectives following a five month undercover operation to prove a clear link between the behaviour of the staff and the promotion of cannabis production.

Searches were carried out at business and home addresses of those linked to the suppliers of so-called hydroponic equipment. A total of £45,000 cash was seized as well as between two to three kilos of cannabis worth in the region of £20,000, together with drug equipment.

Those sentenced today were:

Self-employed Neville Henry, aged 54, of Marshall Street, Smethwick and owns Extra Grow Hydroponics at Wednesbury Trading Estate, was sentenced to six months.

Managing director Lorraine Mardenborough, 52, of Saracen Drive, Sutton Coldfield and co-owns the Red Eye Jungle Shop in Stafford Street, Walsall, was given a six months sentence suspended for 18 months.

Self-employed Imran Osman, 44, also of Saracen Drive, Sutton Coldfield and co-owns Red Eye Amazon in Taunton Road, Birmingham, was sentenced to 19 months.

Shopkeeper David Pemble, 43, of Gentleshaw Lane, Solihull and owner of Oasis Hydroponics on Camp Hill Industrial Estate in John Kempe Way, Birmingham, was sentenced to 23 weeks suspended for 18 months.

Shop manager Royston Bennett, 28, of Brent Road, Kings Heath managing The Hydroponics Shop in Silver Street, Kings Heath was sentenced to 14 months.

Shop employee Kevin Byrne, 29, of Allens Croft Road, Kings Heath employed at The Hydroponics Shop in Silver Street, Kings Heath was sentenced to 26 weeks suspended for 18 months.

Shopkeeper Tony Fulford, 33, of Gravelly Hill, Erdington, owner of Junction 6 Hydroponics, Slade Road, Erdington was sentenced to 23 weeks for 18 months.

Shop employee Darren Smith, 44, of Pixhall Walk, Castle Vale employed at Junction 6 Hydroponics, Slade Road, Erdington sentenced to 30 weeks suspended for 18 months,

Unemployed Rohan Hensley, 31, of Wisely Way, Quinton, previously employed at Grow World, Bristol Road South, Northfield sentenced to 14 weeks suspended for 18 months.

Packer Paul Williams, 28, of Bristnall Hall Road, Oldbury employed at Grow World, Bristol Road South, Northfield sentenced to 18 weeks in prison.

Shopkeeper Simeon Keane, 31, of Severn Acres Road, Halesowen, owner of Growpatch Ltd, High Street, Blackheath sentenced to 17 weeks suspended for 18 months.

All pleaded guilty to encouraging or assisting others to commit an offence (cannabis production) at a previous court hearing.

All 11 were arrested in a first for West Midlands Police in targeting the specialist businesses over two days last February.

Acting Detective Chief Inspector Tom Chisholm said: "We hope this sends a message that we will target anyone involved in drugs cultivation whether they are street sellers, growers or even the people knowingly selling the growing equipment.

"Cannabis is currently the biggest drugs market in the West Midlands; we have found that most criminal gangs will be involved in cannabis in some way as it is low risk and high profit to produce.

"Over the last few years we have seen a proliferation of hydroponic shops in the West Midlands; currently there are 40 to 50 premises across the force area. There is a clear link with the items sold through these premises to equipment we find during drugs raids it was a natural step to carry out this operation.

"We have also found that more people, who wouldn't ordinarily produce the drug, are growing their own cannabis for profit. The force is attending and dismantling on average one cannabis set up a day in the West Midlands, it is not only a huge drain on our resources but also a risk to the public as most set ups are illegally abstracting electricity which often results in damaging properties or even causing a house fire."

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