Gas fitter turned cannabis farmer has prison term cut

An outwardly respectable Midlands man who led a secret life as a cannabis farmer and drug dealer has had his jail term cut by top judges.

Tariq Khwaja, 46, 'had a good job and was earning £40,000 a year' when he got involved in the drugs world, London's Appeal Court heard.

He was one of two men caught with 25kg of cannabis, worth £26,000, at a motorway service station near Stafford in February last year.

The drugs were inside laundry bags and a cardboard box, and officers also found six wraps of cocaine.

Police inquiries revealed that Khwaja was growing cannabis and acting as a small-time cocaine dealer to people he knew.

Khwaja, of Parkhill Road, Sutton Coldfield, was jailed for eight-and-a-half years at Stafford Crown Court in March.

He admitted possessing cocaine and cannabis with intent to supply, conspiring to supply cocaine and producing cannabis.

But now, at London's Criminal Appeal Court, Sir Roderick Evans has cut his sentence to seven years, after concluding he was treated too harshly.

The court heard Khwaja earned good money working as a gas fitter, but turned to crime anyway.

A cannabis farm was discovered in a hidden room at his house following his arrest, and interrogation of his mobile phone exposed his dealing activities.

The judge at the Crown Court concluded that he was involved in three separate drug 'businesses'.

Sir Roderick, sitting with two other appeal judges, agreed Khwaja 'had a leading role'.

"But to describe him as having three businesses is to elevate his criminality to a level which was not warranted," he added.

The judge concluded: "As a matter of totality we regard the sentence of eight and a half years as manifestly excessive.

"We substitute a final sentence of seven years' imprisonment and, to that extent, this appeal is allowed."

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