A mum-of-three was spared jail for having a cannabis farm in her home – after a court heard she was pressurised into doing it by loan sharks who she owed money.
Sharon Hanson, 39, turned to illegal lenders after getting into financial trouble, but found she couldn't keep up with their crippling interest rates.
Instead, Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court was told she was forced into cultivating drugs at her Salford home to keep the loan sharks at bay.
Police raided the house, on Albert Park Road, on July 17 and found a total of 52 cannabis plants.
Two rooms were kitted out with growing facilities including lights, heating and watering systems.
Police also discovered the electricity meter had been by-passed to power the farm, but there was no way of telling how much power had been illegally obtained. Experts estimated that, when harvested, the cannabis could have been worth £11,500 if sold in small wraps on the street.
Hanson initially denied having anything to do with the farm. But she later said loan sharks had pressurised her into agreeing to the drugs deal.
The court heard Hanson benefited little from the arrangement, and was distraught at affecting her family life.
Hanson – who pleaded guilty to charges of producing cannabis and abstracting electricity by by-passing her meter – was given a suspended 36-week prison term and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
Judge Leslie Hull, sentencing, told her: “If it had been for your benefit, I would have no hesitation in sending you to prison. It appears that any reward you did receive was very little.
“The probability is that you got into debt, and those who lent you money pressured you into this situation.” Michael Blakey, defending, said his client – whose youngest child is just five – had been a woman of good character who had managed to keep her head above water until relatively recently when she got into difficulties and needed money.
He said: “She is concerned and extremely ashamed to find herself in the dock for the first time in her life.
“She readily accepts that she allowed herself to become involved. Her whole family life was put in jeopardy, and the distress caused to all those who know her has been enormous.”