Yielding better sentences for cannabis producers

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Cultivating cannabis plants is something of a specialised skill — but so is dismantling them.

To tackle this Class B drug Nottinghamshire Police has set up the Cannabis Dismantling Team (CDT).

Sergeant Jim Wells leads the team (pictured far left). He said: “Of course any police officer can deal with a cannabis grow with the appropriate warrant, but not everyone is able to do it as efficiently as they would like, due to time constraints and breaking incidents. That’s where we come in.”

Since January the CDT has been providing expert advice and support to officers when they discover grows of all sizes across Nottinghamshire.

The two police officers and seven staff members is the only team of its kind in the East Midlands.

The team not only dismantle the system — removing filters and lights and snipping the plants at the stem, rendering them useless — and dispose of vegetation, they also take photos for evidential purposes and provide an expert statement ready for court.

Sergeant Wells, a Notts cop since 1997, said: “In more recent years, organised groups have been spreading cultivations across a number of addresses in a bid to protect their crops and escape long sentences, but we are on to them and I think the public are too.

“There appears to have been a shift in attitude towards cannabis cultivation. I think the public is beginning to realise that it is organised crime groups who are controlling the cannabis industry. These are groups who perpetuate serious crime and violence in their communities and people just won’t tolerate it.”

The charging options for cannabis producers are based on a Home Office estimate of plant weight and this means offenders are charged with Production of Cannabis under one of four tiers, depending on how many plants they have.

But it’s becoming clear that the estimate is not always appropriate.

Sergeant Wells said: “These days we not only look at plant numbers, but also the potential yield of these plants.

“For example, someone could have five plants in their loft. On paper that may be considered personal use, but if they have been expertly grown and pruned, they could actually yield five times as much cannabis than the estimate. If we can evidence that we can go for a higher tier and subsequently attract a more appropriate sentence.”

As drug experts, Sergeant Wells and CDT colleague PC Stuart Clarke can now provide their expert opinion in a statement for court. And the team is completing about 30 cannabis statements a month.

Inspector David Cain, set up the team. He said: “The public wants to see action when they report cannabis. The CDT allows us to provide a faster, more effective service and the best quality evidence package, which is ultimately leading to less trials, swifter justice and better sentences.”

If you suspect someone of being involved with growing or dealing in cannabis contact police or call Crimestoppers anonymously.