A 67-year old Co Antrim man who allowed cannabis to be grown in a container situated on his land was spared jail on Wednesday.
John Lawrence Maybin was due to stand trial at Belfast Crown Court on charges arising from a search at his property on the Castletown Road in Ballyclare on November 3, 2017 - including cultivating cannabis and possessing a Class B drug with intent to supply.
However, after a new charge was added, Maybin pleaded guilty to permitting his premises to be used for the production of cannabis, and was handed a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.
Judge Geoffrey Miller QC heard that during the search of Maybin’s property, a container at outbuildings was searched which contained 38 cannabis plants.
Crown prosecutor Gareth Purvis said that when initially questioned about the drugs, Maybin said he rented out the container to two men, and had no knowledge of what was inside it. He also said these men told him he would be paid £100 rent a month.
During follow-up searches, it emerged that the electric metre had been tampered with which affected the electricity supply to both the main house and the outbuildings on the property.
Maybin provided the names of the men who were renting the container - both of whom have previous convictions for growing cannabis - and they denied knowledge of renting the container, or its contents.
Mr Purvis said these men were not charged as there was no evidence of a rental agreement or any other documents linking them to the container.
Mr Purvis also revealed that Maybin is now repaying arrears of £2,700 to NIE for unpaid electricity.
A defence barrister said her client turned a blind eye to what was going on on his property.
She said Maybin had an excellent working record as a farmer and mechanic, and that in November 2016 he was approached by two men who asked if they could rent out the container. The barrister said that while Maybin was promised £100 a month, he only received £800 over the year-long period.
The judge said: “He was stupid and ought to have known better. He provided a venue where others who are not before the court were able to continue and perpetrate this evil trade.”
Judge Miller warned Maybin that if he offended over the next two years, he would go to jail.