A MAN jailed after setting up a cannabis farm in a Huddersfield house owned by his criminal cousin has been told by top judges he cannot complain about his jail term.
Matthew Francois – who has “entrenched views” that smoking cannabis should not be illegal – was locked up for two years and five months at Bradford Crown Court in May, after he admitted four drugs charges.
The 35-year-old, of Benny Parr Close, Soothill, Batley, challenged his sentence at London’s Criminal Appeal Court, with his lawyers arguing it was ‘too long’ for his crimes.
But his appeal was dismissed by three of the country’s most senior judges, who said the sentence was ‘generous’ – in light of his criminal past.
Francois was arrested after a search warrant was executed at a property in Park Lea, Bradley – owned by his cousin – in June 2009.
His cousin, Mark Francois, 34, of Mirfield, admitted allowing his premises to be used for growing cannabis – along with a string of other offences – and was jailed for six years in May.
Officers discovered 45 cannabis plants – 21 of which were worth about £7,200 – along with lights and other growing equipment, in two upstairs rooms at the house (inset).
Fingerprints belonging to Matthew Francois were found and he said he had set up all of the equipment for someone else.
He was released on bail and a search of his own home, in August of the same year, revealed he was in possession of cannabis and cocaine.
He admitted producing cannabis – on the basis he set up the equipment and made no profit – two counts of possessing cannabis and one of possessing cocaine.
The court heard Francois had a number of previous convictions for offences including supplying heroin – for which he was handed a six-year jail term for in 2001.
He was also described as having ‘entrenched views’ about cannabis use, having told a probation officer he didn’t regard smoking the drug as offending and admitting he left a drug treatment programme because it was ‘irrelevant’.
His lawyers argued his jail term was over the top, given his limited involvement in the cannabis-growing offence.
But, dismissing his appeal, Lord Justice Treacy said it could be said the crown court judge was ‘generous’ in passing the sentence that he did.
The Appeal Court judge, sitting with Mr Justice Fulford and Judge Alistair McCreath QC, added: “We do not consider that the sentence passed can be described as arguably manifestly excessive.”