TWO men were put to work as gardeners of a £168,000 Carlisle cannabis farm in which every room of the house was given over to the illegal operation.

Police officers attended the residential property on Wigton Road at around midnight on August 3 amid concern from members of the local community.

A light was on inside the property with noises and voices also heard, Carlisle Crown Court was told. “There were also fans whirring and a smell of cannabis,” said Fiona McNeill, prosecuting.

“As officers approached the side of the property, the sound of a window or door being opened could be heard and there was also movement from the rear of the address.

“An officer made his way to the rear of the address and at that point saw two men running away.”

They were Vietnamese pair Trong Phan, 33, and 47-year-old Quang Trinh, who ran into a nearby cul de sac but were detained after a short chase.

Both were found upon arrest to be in possession of mobile phones and wallets containing around £100 cash.

“The house was searched by police and it was found that every room in the property was being used in some way for the cultivation of cannabis,” said Ms McNeill. “What would be described as a significant commercial grow of 201 plants in various stages of growth.”

These could have potentially yielded cannabis worth up to £168,840 for street sale.

“As well as the plants there were the associated growing materials — nutrient solutions, pots, plastic sheeting, head lamps, filters and equipment to trim and harvest the plants,” said the prosecutor.

There were also six plastic bags which contained the illegal class B drug and the electricity supply had been bypassed.

“It is the Crown’s case that the defendants were living at the house,” added Ms McNeill. “There was a double mattress, a fully stocked fridge and freezer, and a working bathroom.

“Both the front and side doors had keys within the locks to allow exit and entry from the property which would contradict any suggestion of the, being trapped in any way inside.”

The two men, both of no fixed address, admitted cannabis production.

Lawyers gave mitigation on behalf of both men and spoke of them having family in Vietnam, and of finding themselves in the UK with no legitimate means of supporting themselves.

Phan was in this country illegally and had not seen his wife nor 12-year-old son for several years. Trinh had initially been in the UK legally before his visa was revoked.

Tobias Collins, for Trinh, summed up the defendants’ plight by saying his client had been a “desperate man living a very difficult life in a place that must have been very strange to him”.

Recorder Julian Shaw noted the pair had been remanded in custody since early August as he imposed 12-month jail sentences in each case.

“This was a very significant cannabis growing operation,” said Recorder Shaw. “I accept you were the gardeners. But I have regard to the impact this has had on the community. It had clearly been set up and been running for some time and to the extent that you were recently on site.

“I do find and conclude that on the evidence that you must have been trusted to carry out your role for you were free to come and go as you chose. You had money. This isn’t a remote, rural location where you would not know where to go. It is a built-up area, part of a sizeable community.”

After the hearing, a Cumbria police spokesman urged members of the public to look out for the possible signs of cannabis being grown inside properties.

These include:

Strong, sickly smells coming from properties;

Properties where the windows are constantly covered;

Excessive security around properties, such as CCTV;

High levels of unusual condensation on windows;

Lots of visitors – and at unsociable hours;

Bright lights day and night;

Constant buzz of ventilation.