Former cafe owner avoids prison sentence after police found cannabis factory at his business premises in Middleton
Police found a cannabis farm worth around £13,000 when they executed a search warrant at a cafe in Leeds.
Robin Williams was arrested as officers found 24 illegal plants growing in rooms above the premises in Middleton.
Leeds Crown Court heard West Yorkshire Police officers went to the cafe on Sissons Avenue, Middleton, on October 29, 2020.
Jade Edwards, prosecuting, said Williams was at the property at the time and officers placed him in handcuffs in the seating area.
The defendant then admitted to the officers that plants were growing upstairs.
The cafe and the upstairs areas were then searched.
The prosecutor said the officers found bags of benzocaine in the cafe kitchen area.
The substance is often used as a cutting agent for illegal drugs.
A sum of £650 in £50 notes was found under a mattress in one of the bedrooms.
A total of 24 well-developed cannabis plants were also found upstairs along with growing equipment including an extractor fan and lighting.
The officers then searched Williams' then home on Boulevard Rise, Middleton.
Ms Edwards said officers found tubs of cannabis and also seized digital scales, mobile phones and a list of names.
There was a strong smell of cannabis and other evidence that the property had also been used as to grow the class B drug but no plants were recovered.
A large extractor fan was found in one of the rooms.
An engineer confirmed that the electricity meter had been bypassed.
The plants seized were capable of producing cannabis worth around £13,500.
Williams, now of The Oaks, Middleton, pleaded guilty to producing cannabis and abstracting electricity.
He has five previous convictions and served a prison sentence for wounding in 2001.
A probation officer told the court that Williams had stated in an interview that he became involved in the offending when his cafe business began to fail due to the pandemic.
He had mortgage arrears of £12,000 at the time of the offence and was abusing alcohol.
The officer said: "'Everything was a blur', in his words.
"The defendant states he does not know why he committed this offence."
The court heard Williams no longer owns the business and works as a scaffolder.
Erin Kitson-Parker, mitigating, said Williams had not been in trouble for almost 20 years.
The barrister said Williams had worked for most of his life as a chef across the UK.
Williams was given a ten-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.
He was also ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work and to complete 15 rehabilitation activity requirement days.
Judge Geoffrey Marson QC said: "It was a sophisticated operation.
"You were doing it to provide for yourself.
"You were doing it for financial gain.
"Drugs bring misery to drug users who rob, borrow and steal to fund their habit."