Man jailed over cannabis growing operation on town high street

Police discovered a cannabis growing operation inside a building in Stalham

Police discovered a cannabis growing operation inside a building in Stalham - Credit: Google/Norfolk Constabulary

A man has been jailed for being involved in a cannabis growing operation in a Norfolk town.

Kol Hila, 25, was arrested inside a property on High Street in Stalham when police raided it on June 8 this year following a tip off. 

Officers found 79 mature cannabis plants with an estimated street value of £79,000. 

Cannabis plants and growing equipment discovered by police

Cannabis plants and growing equipment discovered by police - Credit: Norfolk Constabulary

They also seized hydroponics growing equipment that had been rigged up across four rooms of the house.

Norwich Crown Court heard Hila, an Albanian seeking asylum in the UK, was the sole occupant of the property when police searched it and was found to be in possession of its keys. 

Prosecutor Marc Brown said when interviewed he told police had moved to Norfolk and become involved in the growing operation after meeting fellow Albanians in London. 

He said he had feared for the safety of his family back in Albania after they had been threatened and that he had been paid £300 for his role.   

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“Police said he appeared to be grateful to be taken out of the property. While we don’t accept there was duress, it does appear he was the gardener,” said Mr Brown. 

Appearing via video link from Norwich prison to be sentenced, after previously pleading guilty to producing a controlled drug, Hila - formerly of Ashfield Road in North Walsham - spoke through an interpreter only to confirm his name.

Stalham High Street

The cannabis farm was found inside a property (left) that is on the High Street in Stalham - Credit: Google

Oliver Haswell, mitigating, said he had not been in charge of the operation and that his role had elements of modern slavery.  

He said: “While he was able to come and go from the property, the reason, as described to police, why he continued in this operation was concerns for his family back home.”

Jailing him for 12 months, after which he could be deported, Judge Andrew Shaw said while he had a “limited role” he was not convinced he had been held captive as he had keys and could have alerted the authorities. 

He said: “Cultivating cannabis on this level is a very serious offence in this country. It is a consequence of and helps to fund serious organised crime. It leads to trafficking or vulnerable people. 

“It is also the case that cannabis is anything but a harmless drug.”