A BUSINESSWOMAN who played a leading role in setting up a large-scale cannabis operation in a Solihull farmhouse has been saved from prison – for the sake of her children.
And because Lisa Scotney narrowly escaped being jailed, two men who were involved in the operation with her also avoided custody when they appeared at Warwick Crown Court.
Scotney (55) of Broadway North, Walsall; Shaun Wilkinson (50) of City Heights, Snow Hill, Birmingham; and Edward Ambrozewicz (55) of Roebuck Glade, Willenhall, Wolverhampton, had all pleaded guilty to conspiring to produce cannabis.
Scotney was sentenced to two years in prison suspended for two years, and Wilkinson to 18 months suspended for two years, with each of them being ordered to do 240 hours of unpaid work.
Ambrozewicz, who had played ‘the least significant role,’ but was subject to a suspended sentence for growing cannabis at the time, was sentenced to 21 months suspended for two years, with 100 hours of unpaid work and a rehabilitation activity.
Prosecutor Tariq Shakoor said Scotney financed the cannabis operation, and she and Wilkinson played significant parts in organising it, while Ambrozewicz had expertise in cultivating cannabis – with four previous convictions for doing so.
The court heard that Heathfield Farm in Hockley Heath, near Solihull, was a six-bedroom house which had 11 acres of grounds and facilities including an indoor swimming pool and a gym, and was accessed through electronic gates.
It was being rented out by a letting agency who were contacted in July 2016 by Wilkinson who expressed an interest in it, and a rent of £3,750 a month was agreed, with a deposit of £4,250 being paid.
“From that date, or very soon after, the production of cannabis was taking place. Texts showed it was already being grown in October 2016.”
All three defendants were at the farmhouse when the police raided it in March 2017, forcing entry through the gates, and found a large number of cannabis plants.
In the garage there were growing tents containing 40 plants which were about ten weeks from being ready to harvest, 21 root balls from a previous crop, as well as heating and lighting equipment and bags of fertiliser.
In the gym were 11 plants which were just six weeks away from harvest, while a bedroom in the annexe housed seven large plants and 26 small plants in propagators.
A first floor kitchen had five plants, a quantity of cannabis waste from previous harvests, and a shredding machine.
Bedroom five had a tent with five plants in it, while an upstairs sitting room contained a further 13 plants, and a bathroom was being used for storing the growing chemicals.
Based on commercial supply in one-ounce deals, the cannabis ready for sale and the plants approaching harvest would have been worth around £33,000 – with further crops on the way.
“Shaun Wilkinson was living there. It seems Lisa Scotney was spending quite a bit of time there, and Ambrozewicz, someone who is experienced in growing cannabis, was visiting regularly.”
At Scotney’s home the police found a detailed list of items needed to set up a cannabis grow, and ‘significant sums of money’ were passing from her account.
Wilkinson had received £73,135 from her which, although not necessarily all relating to drugs, included £3,750 a month for the rent which he paid to the rental agency, while Ambrozewicz had received £16,911 from Scotney.
Sentencing the three, Recorder Kenneth Carr said: “It is quite clear the defendants in this case were not going to be selling the cannabis themselves on the street.
“The operation, in my view, is a moderately large one, it’s not a factory, but nor is it a spare bedroom in a house.”
He told Scotney and Wilkinson: “Both of you were intimately involved in the setting up of this operation and in the day-to-day running of it.
“This was a thoroughly criminal course which you both enthusiastically joined in. You both played leading roles.”
He said Scotney would have got an immediate 27-month sentence, but for the long delay and her ‘very bright’ eight-year-old twins, adding: “You have been anxiously waiting to see what is going to happen to you, and therefore to your children.”
Recorder Carr said she could count herself ‘very, very fortunate,’ but that he had to take account of her sentence when dealing with the two men, so would also suspend their sentences.
He told Wilkinson he was receiving further credit for the assistance he had given to the police, and because he had been willing to give evidence if the other two had had a trial.
And Ambrozewicz was told: “This is your fifth conviction for cultivating cannabis. You knew what was going on, and you joined in. Your role was more than a gardener, and I am satisfied you played a significant role.”