FIFTY cannabis growers are being sentenced at Sheffield Crown Court in one of the biggest crackdowns on the drug the city has ever seen.
Scores of criminals are set to be convicted at dedicated court hearings which continue today and tomorrow. Yesterday 15 drug-growers were either jailed, given suspended sentences or handed community orders.
The bumper hearings have been scheduled following new legal guidance issued by Court of Appeal judges, after Sheffield’s most senior judge, Alan Goldsack QC, vowed to lock up people cultivating cannabis even if it was for their own personal use.
The judge presiding over the new cases, Judge Peter Kelson QC, said many offenders will still be jailed.
The judge also said users of the Class B drug will receive heavy punishments if they were capable of producing large cannabis crops.
“One of the critical issues is going to be the issue of purpose-built rooms,” the judge told Sheffield Crown Court.
“The public need to understand that people who set up growing areas capable of producing repeat crops are going to be regarded by the courts as significant offenders, and they are all very likely going to go to prison - whether employed or not, a family man or not, of good character or not.”
He added: “These cases were all held back because guidance was required from the Court of Appeal on the sentencing guidelines handed down by the Sentencing Council.
“That guidance has resolved many of the matters which were troubling the legal profession.”
The clampdown on cannabis first started last September, when Judge Goldsack said courts had been told to ‘get tougher’ on cannabis-growing.
But in February another Sheffield judge, Michael Murphy QC, criticised new guidelines which he said didn’t allow him to jail Craig Cupit, aged 33, for growing cannabis in his cellar.
The judge said the guidelines ‘diluted’ court powers.
The Sentencing Council later defended the rules, saying, ‘we do not expect judges to be changing the way they sentence’.
Six men were later jailed by Judge Goldsack, who said he thought reducing sentences would ‘undermine public confidence’.
Earlier this month five of the convicts had their jail terms reduced by Appeal Court judges, who issued the new guidance.