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Grieving youth in cannabis racket spared detention

By John Scott | Wednesbury | Crime | Published:

A teenager whose life was ‘turned upside down’ by grief got involved with a cannabis farm to pay off drug debts.

A stock photo of cannabis

Billy-Ray Thomas went ‘off the rails’ and ‘lost it’ for 12 months following the death of his father, Wolverhampton Crown Court was told.

The following year he rented an industrial unit in Leabrook Road, Wednesbury on November 15, 2017, which he said would be used for motorcycle repairs.

But the 19-year-old had got hooked on cocaine while depressed over his loss and ran up a £3,500 debt with drug dealers.

They quickly became aware of what he was doing and ‘exploited’ the defendant by persuading him to allow them to cultivate cannabis in the unit as a means of paying off what he owed, it was said.

Police raided the premises following a tip-off on March 9 and found 80 plants being grown in four tents, disclosed Mr Phillip Beardwell, prosecuting.

Experts estimated the crop could have been worth up to £67,000 in street deals.

Mr Beardwell said Thomas, whose only previous conviction was a motoring offence, admitted planting and maintaining some of the plants but would not have benefitted. .

Mr Glenn Cook, defending, confirmed: “He allowed the drug suppliers to whom he owed a considerable amount of money to use the premises. They erected the farm. He owed £3,500 and could not see any other solution to his predicament.

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“He was physically beaten up by the people to whom he owed the money and his family received death threats.”

Mr Cook continued: “He lost it following the death of his father in 2016 and went off the rails over a 12-month period during which he became addicted to cocaine.

"The dealers were giving him up to £200-a-day’s worth of the drug when he was clearly not in a position to pay.”

Thomas, of no fixed address, admitted being involved in the production of cannabis and was given 16 months detention in a Young Offenders Institution suspended for two years. He was also ordered to take rehabilitation courses and do 150 hours work.

Judge Simon Ward said: “This was out of character and came after your life had been turned upside down by grief.

“You were told what to do and were not going to sell the drugs.”

John Scott

By John Scott
Reporter/News Feature Writer

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