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Jail for pot-growing pensioner and pals

Busted: The cannabis farm near Bexhill PICTURES: SWNS

A PENSIONER was among a trio of cannabis growers caught running a £720,000 cannabis farm inside an agricultural greenhouse.

Michael Hill, 74, Keith Fieldwick, 54, and Thomas O’Brien, 56, were caught ‘red handed’ and surrounded by 601 cannabis plants in a polytunnel greenhouse.

The men, described as ‘respectful members of the community’ had devised an ‘elaborate’ plan to sell the drugs across Sussex.

Officers entered a house in East Sussex and found evidence of cannabis throughout, with six rooms used to grow dozens of plants.

The property, near Bexhill, was surrounded by grounds that homed ‘huge polytunnels’ that were filled with more cannabis and growing equipment.

Prosecutor Gareth Burrows said: ‘Within the kitchen there were two large piles of what appeared to be freshly cut cannabis.

Defending Hill, Jonathan Ray said: ‘Mr O’Brien is industrious and this is totally out of character — he is a caring family man.’

Jay Shah, defending Fieldwick, argued the father played a ‘limited’ role in the factory, rather than a ‘leading’ or ‘significant role’.

Sentencing the three men at Lewes Crown Court, Recorder Stephen Lennard described the enterprise as a ‘very significant cannabis growing operation’.

He said: ‘Mr O’Brien and Mr Fieldwick, you tried to persuade the police you knew nothing of this operation before arriving at the property on October 2, 2014 — that was a lie.

‘You are all intelligent men, you would have all known the harm these drugs were doing to the community.’

Hill, from Burwash, was given a 22-week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, while Fieldwick, from Hooe, was jailed for four-and-a-half years and O’Brien, also of Burwash, was jailed for three years.