A dad-of-five caught growing cannabis after being released from prison was today spared jail.
Lee Dever was locked up for three years in September 2015 for producing and dealing the Class B drug and also dealing cocaine.
Officers found he had grown four plants and also discovered 400g of cannabis and 56g of cocaine at the drug dealer’s home.
The now 44-year-old was released from jail in October 2016 on licence, which was not due to expire until September this year.
But when police raided his house in Peckmill Green, Netherley on April 4, they seized 28 cannabis plants, worth nearly £17,000.
Liverpool Crown Court heard the mature plants were found in tents in two bedrooms, with lighting units, transformers, fans and heaters.
Derek Jones, prosecuting, said the electricity meter had also been bridged, at an estimated cost to the supplier of £16,000 per year.
He said the plants could have yielded 1.12kg of cannabis, which if sold at street value, could have generated up to £16,800 in total.
Dever, now of Penmann Crescent, Halewood, was arrested and interviewed by police, when he claimed to have accommodation problems.
The dad, who was also fined for cultivating cannabis in 2004, said he was offered the tenancy at the home in return for growing the crop.
Dever later said he was recruited by others who pretended he owed them money – when in fact he didn’t – and said he had to run the farm and would be given the tenancy.
He admitted producing cannabis and abstracting electricity.
John Rowan, defending, said his client knew he was in a very serious position because of his past convictions and the fact he was on licence.
But he said Dever pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity, had not breached his licence otherwise and had a job offer as a forklift truck driver.
Mr Rowan said: “The defendant tells me he was determined upon his release from his last prison sentence to turn his life around.”
He said Dever had five children – including four with his current partner, with whom he lives and has two twins, aged three-years-old.
Mr Rowan said: “They are close to their father who unfortunately spent the first part of their lives in prison.
“The defendant feels particularly disappointed in himself for putting them at risk of losing their father again for whatever period of time.
“He plays a big role in the lives of all of his children and his partner, who depends on him as well.”
Mr Rowan said Dever – a former drug user who was now clean – “deeply regretted” running the cannabis farm when struggling to find work.
He said his client had “particularly unpleasant experiences” as a child and had suffered with depression and sleep apnea as a result.
Judge Andrew Menary, QC, said he was “entirely sceptical” of Dever’s claim how he became involved in running the cannabis farm.
He said: “It doesn’t make any sense and is an entirely convenient explanation for you to have offered.”
However, he said jailing him would have a negative effect on his family and he was willing to give him a “very last chance”.
Judge Menary handed Dever 14 months in prison, suspended for two years, plus a 20-day rehabilitation course.
He ordered him to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and to serve a four-month home curfew, between 8am and 6pm daily.
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