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Cannabis farmer is jailed
6:08pm Thursday 5th December 2013 in News
CANNABIS farmer and gun enthusiast Malcolm White, who was "living outside the law" in a village near Worcester, has been jailed for seven years.
White, cleared by a jury earlier this week of deliberately shooting a burglar at his home at Stocking Gobbetts, in Whitbourne, had earlier admitted firearms and cannabis production charges, Worcester Crown Court heard.
He has also voluntarily handed over more than £78,000 to police so there will be no further recovery proceedings.
White had a "real arsenal" of weapons hidden around his house including three handguns - a blanks firing pistol, a revolver and a starting gun - which were all in a prohibited category.
Simon Phillips, prosecuting, said police found one of the pistols, an 8mm rifle and a shotgun in his airing cupboard and the Olympic starting pistol in a cardboard box in the hallway, while a .22 rifle was discovered under his bed, fitted with a scope and silencer.
Inside a wardrobe, he had a Manton rifle, an "elephant gun", Mr Phillips said.
He also had ammunition including a solid slug lead bullet, 15 12-bore cartridges and 12lbs of nitro and tools for making more ammunition.
He had 2,000 rounds of ammuntion for the guns, more than the 1,200 he was allowed and in his workshop in Caroline Street, Birmingham, he had more ammunition for the handguns.
The jury in the unlawful wounding trial, which ended on Wednesday, heard the 64-year-old had three rooms in his garage turned over to the production of cannabis plants.
He had spent £20,000 on equipment to grow the 65 plants, which were worth £18,000 but were capable of producing a crop worth between £55,000 and £65,000 annually.
A jury decided that retired watch repairer White accidentally shot burglar Robert Richards, who was part of a gang trying to break into his home on October 5, 2011.
Police called to the scene discovered the cannabis and also the firearms.
Fourteen were licensed and kept in a locked cabinet but the rest were not on his list and were therefore illegal, Mr Phillips told the court.
White said many of the guns belonged to his late father who was a collector and Brian Dean, defending, said White had not used them for the wrong purposes.
The three handguns were the only prohibited weapons, he said, as the others could have been added to the shotgun and firearms certificates White held.
His basis of plea for the cannabis was that he had once rented out stables to people who he discovered were growing the Class B drug and who threatened to "carve his wife up" if he did not help them out.
After they left, he later used some of the equipment himself with the intention of distilling it to take for his own personal use to relieve his arthritis.
Mr Dean said White had been terrified about the trial and had signed away everything he owned so it could all be over and there would be no Proceeds of Crime Act pursuit.
Judge Robert Juckes said White had been "living outside the law" by growing cannabis which made it a particular risk that the illegal guns would fall into the wrong hands.
He had chosen to ignore the laws on firearms and had built a "real arsenal" and had the weapons scattered insecurely around the house.
White, he said, had been a hard-working man of good character.
He gave him a prison sentence of six years in total on the three offences involving the handguns, one year each to run concurrently for the other firearms offences and 12 months for the production of cannabis, making a total of seven years.
He has been in custody for more than two years since the raid on his house.
After the sentencing, Detective Sergeant Frank Real from Hereford CID said when officers arrived at the scene of the burglary, all did not appear as it seemed: “During our inquiries at the property, as with any firearms incident, we set about seizing the weapons at the address and their licences.
“Although White identified the gun he discharged during the burglary and the location of his firearms cabinet – where all weapons should be locked away and stored – we started to find a number of other guns hidden in places such as the airing cupboard and under the bed.
“Altogether, we found five weapons and three rounds of ammunition which White did not have licences for and also, three prohibited firearms which are illegal to own. Today he has been sentenced to six years in prison for these offences.”
While in police custody White confessed to growing cannabis at his home and as a result police found £18,000 of cannabis growing in his garage.
Det Sgt Real said the case should serve as a warning to others who are considering growing cannabis: “While we can’t say at this present time why White began producing cannabis, what is clear is that his activities brought him to the attention of Randall and Richards, who went to his house in order to steal the plants.
“White suddenly found himself in a situation where he was in over his head, which led to him being the target of a planned burglary carried out by a professional criminal outfit. Bearing in mind the items Randall and Richards had brought with them, this situation could have escalated and it appears the pair were only deterred because White fired his shotgun."
He advised anyone confronted by an intruder to call police immediately on 999.
“We are satisfied with the sentence handed to White for the drugs and weapons offences and we hope it acts as a deterrent to anyone who is considering growing cannabis, or is involved in its production at the moment, that it simply isn’t worth the risk.
“Richards, Randall and White all committed very serious crimes but they remain extremely unusual offences in our force area.
“This has been a highly complex investigation and I would like to thank everyone involved including the CPS, our officers and in particular, the residents of Whitbourne and Leigh Sinton for their help and co-operation while we carried out our inquiries into this incident.”
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