A CONVICTED drug dealer damaged his rented home near Worcester to make room for a cannabis farm, growing plants up to 6ft tall with a yield running into thousands of pounds`

Michael Vella was spared an immediate jail sentence after 16 plants were found at the 'sophisticated grow at his home in Highfield, Callow End, near Worcester.

He claimed the cannabis was for his own personal use, an argument described as 'inconceivable' by the sentencing judge.

The 55-year-old defendant admitted a single count of production of the class B drugs when he appeared before Judge Nicholas Cartwright at Worcester Crown Court yesterday.

Jason Aris, prosecuting, said police entered Vella's home on October 6 last year where they found significant damage caused by the defendant, including holes cut into the ceiling, the upstairs landing and the main and second bedroom. The damage to the plasterboard of the rented property, owned by Platform Housing, was placed at £900.

Large aluminium tubing had been used to provide ventilation and there was extensive electrical wiring, Mr Aris told the court.

The total yield of the plants, which were 6ft in height, was between 448g and 1,344g at the time of the raid. A drugs expert estimated that the realisable return on the plans was between £4,500 and £7,800 if supplied at a kilogram level or between £2,560 and £11,520 if sold at ounce weights.

Mr Aris described the grow as a 'sophisticated set up' which would have cost 'a significant amount of money to put into place'.

Vella has 28 previous convictions for 45 offences which Mr Aris said reflected his history as a 'habitual drug user'. In 2002 he was convicted of possession of cocaine and in 2006 for possession of crack cocaine.

In 2011 he was convicted of possession of heroin and methadone. Vella was convicted of possession of amphetamines with intent to supply in 2013. His last conviction was in April 2013.

His defence barrister said that Vella had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and argued that there was no evidence that the grow was for onward supply.

However, Judge Cartwright said: "I cannot accept that all of that cannabis, if harvested, would have been for your own use. It is inconceivable it would not have found its way - at least some of it - into the cannabis cigarettes of others."

The judge sentenced him to 10 months in prison suspended for two years. Vella was also ordered to complete 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days. He was also placed on an electronically monitored curfew for the next four months which will run daily between 7pm and 7am. Compensation is already being paid by the defendant for the damage he caused so no compensation order was made.

The judge ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the plants and equipment and ordered Vella to pay £700 costs.