A couple were caught running a drugs factory from a thatched cottage.
Police discovered 88 cannabis plants at the £500,000 rented home of Yvette Hartley, 48, and her husband Neil, a 45-year-old loss adjuster.
The couple initially claimed the cannabis was being grown to help with cancer treatment.
The enormous haul of the class B drug was found at their rural cottage and outbuildings in Kent
But they later pleaded guilty to producing a Class B drug and a sympathetic judge spared them jail.
Mrs Hartley, a charity worker, had also suggested they were making cannabis oil to treat cancer.
Last night she and her husband insisted they were innocent: ‘We moved from the property because it wasn’t us – we were tenants of the cottage not of the outbuildings.’
Asked if she knew who had cultivated the drugs, Mrs Hartley replied: ‘I’m not going to say for our own protection and that’s why we admitted it in court. The person that it is has not got a very good reputation – he’s not very nice.
‘We decided to plead guilty, get it over and done with. We are not drug dealers –wrong place, wrong time. It was an unfortunate thing – if the police had taken fingerprints we would not have been arrested.’
Yvette and Neil Hartley (pictured) narrowly avoided prison despite cops finding 88 cannabis plants
The cannabis farm was found in one of the buildings at their home in the tiny Kent village of Hoath, which has a population of just 500.
Phil Rowley, defending the pair at Canterbury Crown Court on Monday, insisted they were involved in the production but not the distribution of the cannabis plants.
Recorder Jonathan Davies was also told that Mr Hartley had the ‘greater involvement’ and was motivated by providing healthcare to his wife.
Charity worker Yvette and loss adjuster Neil Hartley narrowly avoided jail after their trial
They were both given suspended sentences and ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work
‘This was a well-established operation – a cannabis factory,’ the judge said. ‘I am not sure if either of you has ever told the truth about this operation, which would have involved daily attention and was done for financial reasons.’
The judge added that in not sending them to prison he might be seen by some as ‘soft and weak’ but added that their two children were at a ‘crucial part of their lives’.
‘You risked their futures by your conduct because you must have known the consequences of what you were doing,’ he added.
The couple, who now live in Canterbury, were given 22-month jail sentences, suspended for two years. They were also ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.
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