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Man let friend grow cannabis in his Cheltenham house

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: October 13, 2012

FORMER RAF avionics engineer Damien Cawood allowed a friend to set up a cannabis factory in his Cheltenham house, a court heard.

But the 33-year-old, now a student at university in Portsmouth, told Gloucester Crown Court he had no role in the cannabis production and had permitted it only so his friend could repay him a £3,000 debt.

The prosecution disputed his claim and alleged he was much more deeply involved in the cannabis growing than he accepted.

A trial of issue was held so Judge Jamie Tabor could determine the extent of Cawood's involvement.

Prosecutor Tim Hills said 28 mature cannabis plants and 45 smaller ones were found growing in Cawood's property in Summergate Road, Cheltenham, and they were capable of yielding 3.4 kilos of cannabis.

Mr Hills referred the court to email exchanges between Cawood and his friend, Thomas Scurr, which, he said, made it clear Cawood was an active partner in the project.

Scurr, he said, has since gone on the run.

In evidence, Zambian-born Cawood said Scurr had once worked for him as a chef when he was running a pub near Swindon.

Scurr had left owing him £3,000 but then contacted him again last year saying he was down on his luck and needed help.

"We discussed the idea of growing cannabis," he said. "He was looking for someone to help him out. He told me he had done it in Nottingham and he would like to continue to do it. That began a chain of email communication discussing it."

Cawood said he agreed to let Scurr do it in his home in return for rent of £50 a month more than the going rate, plus the repayment of the £3,000 he owed him.

But he said his comments in emails about making money from cannabis growing and having a good business were all "pie in the sky" fantasy.

His aim, he said, was not to make money from growing cannabis illegally but to trade in the latest lighting systems used by growers and he was interested in finding out more about them. Now, he said, he has moved to Portsmouth to start a three year geology engineering course.

Judge Tabor said he found that Cawood was working in partnership with Scurr.

"Scurr had the technology and the defendant had the premises and they were in partnership together. That's what it looks like to me," he said.

He bailed Cawood for a pre-sentence report but warned him that he fell into a "significant role" sentencing which carried between one year and two and a half years jail term.

Sentencing was adjourned until November 9.

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