A JOINER hit by the recession turned to producing cannabis to pay off his debts, a court heard.

David Lomas and his accomplice Timothy Newman, pleaded guilty to being concerned in the production of cannabis, possessing cannabis with intent to supply and Newman also admitted possession of cannabis.

Hugh Edwards, prosecuting, told Bolton Crown Court that police raided Lomas’ bungalow in Reynolds Drive, Over Hulton, on January 17 last year and found both men at the property.

In the living room was Newman’s wallet containing £420 and two sandwich bags full of cannabis worth £133.

In a rear bedroom they also came across bags of cannabis bush valued at £1,640 and in the loft were heating lamps, compost and 100 plant pots and fertilizer.

Lomas, aged 44, told police arresting him: “I’m £35,000 in debt. There’s nothing I could do.”

He told officers he had been successful at growing the drug on his third attempt, and Newman, aged 35, of the Millstone Hotel, Bridge Street, Darwen, was responsible for bagging it up and selling it on.

Judge Timothy Stead was told that Newman had returned to England the previous month after living in Thailand and had been staying with Lomas.

Patrick Williamson, defending Lomas, said the joiner, who was of previous good character, had enjoyed a “lavish lifestyle” as a joiner, funding purchases such as cosmetic surgery, but when work dried up in the recession he accumulated debts.

He added that after unsuccessfully seeking help from the Citizens Advice Bureau and juggling credit card payments, he decided to set up his own cannabis farm.

“He clearly feels remorse, shame and embarrassment,” said Mr Williamson.

Peter Cunliffe, defending Newman, said he was also of previous good character and had become involved in the crime because of financial problems.

Lomas was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years and ordered to do 120 hours unpaid work.

Newman was given a 15 month jail term, suspended for two years and told he must do 160 hours unpaid work. Both men also have to pay a £100 victim surcharge.