30 July 2012
Cannabis Factory leads to Jail
A driving instructor whose cannabis factory
was discovered after a fire ripped through the house he was renting
was jailed for 22 months on Friday 27 July.
Clive Latouche, 52, from Barnet was paying
£500 a month for terraced house in Sandy Road, Potton, where he was
growing more than a hundred cannabis plants.
He was caught when fire broke out on the
fire floor at a quarter past four in the afternoon of 23 December
last year, Luton crown court heard.
When fire crews arrived smoke was pouring
out of the building and it was discovered that the electricity
meter had been bypassed.
Latouche, from Morell Close, Barnet pleaded
guilty to cultivating cannabis, but he claimed that he was growing
the drug only for his personal use.
After hearing evidence Judge Michael Baker
QC ruled against him saying he had set up a "sophisticated
operation" in which 111 plants were found.
When questioned by his barrister Claire
Leslie, Latouche said: "I decided to grow marijuana for myself. I
had been buying it since I was 16. I ordered the seeds off the
internet and I bought a propagator. So many crops came up I didn't
want to throw them away because they would be valuable to me. I
expected to grow enough to keep me in marijuana for the next couple
of months. I wasn't just going to smoke them. In Jamaica we use the
leaves to make tea."
He said he spent two or three nights a week
at the address in Potton, spending the rest of the time at his
girlfriend's home in North London. He said he wanted to save on the
£200 to £300 a week he spent buying the drug.
When he learned of the fire he said he
spoke to a firm of solicitors who advised him to contact the
police. "I knew I had done wrong. I was illegally growing marijuana
plants. It was for me. I don't smoke anymore," he said.
He had no previous convictions, but had
been cautioned back in 1981 for possessing cannabis.
Merril Hughes, for the Crown Prosecution
Service, put it to Latouche: "If that amount of cannabis was for
your own personal use as a driving instructor you would have been
He replied: "I object. My tolerance was
extremely high." He said an estimate that the crop would have
yielded between two and three kilos of cannabis worth between
£7,000 and £30,000 was an "extrapolation."
Ms Leslie said there was no evidence of a
chain, no bags and no scales. She said his operation was not
sophisticated enough to avoid a fire.
But Judge Baker said: "I simply do not
believe the defendant's account. If he had a £200 to £300 a
week habit he would have been permanently under the influence even
if he had a high level of tolerance. The set up is so sophisticated
that his case does not make sense. It has all the appearances of an
organised project. It was a commercial operation designed to make a
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