A “lifelong soldier” and former police officer who ran a “professional” cannabis factory protected by strategically placed weapons from his village home near a school has been jailed.
David Allen, 68, who toured to Northern Ireland, Bosnia, the Gulf and Afghanistan during 24 years’ dedicated service to his country, was caught after police received reports of a strong smell of the illegal drug emanating from a farm just 100 metres away from Calthwaite primary school, near Penrith.
Detectives went to the small holding, on July 20 last year and discovered Allen — a former PC who served with Northumbria force between 1993 and 1997 — had been involved in the “continuous commercial production of cannabis at the property”.
A search revealed a “professional grow” of 80 plants using high end, specialist equipment designed to maximise yield. The plants were nearing full maturity, and contained within a fully insulated room complete with sophisticated timed lamps, heaters and a working industrial ventilation system.
Next to that was a substantial drying area including a large, insulated tent, drying racks and vacuum-packing machinery, along with empty fertiliser containers.
Seven crops could have been produced during a 140-week period, it was estimated, potentially yielding up to 42kg of cannabis with a possible wholesale value of between £50,400 and 336,000.
“A search of the defendant’s farmhouse revealed further equipment and packaging for the cannabis,” prosecutor Alaric Walmsley told Carlisle Crown Court, “notes and manuals of how to grow cannabis and operate the machinery; cash; and weapons — knives, a crossbow and air rifles in strategic positions ready to protect the cannabis farm.”
One detective described the operation as “one of the most carefully constructed and sophisticated set-ups he had ever seen”. Body-worn officer footage captured on a walk-through showed the extent of Allen’s criminal enterprise.
After being released while under investigation by police, he made “arrangements to leave the country”. He let slip to an estate agent in November he was “packing” and “off to retire in the sunshine”, mentioning “Asia” and suggesting he would not be coming back but was arrested and remanded in custody later that month.
A financial probe of his personal and business accounts identified “unexplained cash deposits totalling over £425,000, together with regular transfers of money to an ex-partner in the Philippines”, while two passports handed over by Allen to police featured different dates of birth.
A man of positive good character, he admitted both cannabis production and possession of criminal cash after £12,000 in separate £1,000 in a set of bedroom drawers.
Michael Davies, defending, said the “real story” was not Allen’s short stint as a PC but that through his Army service he was a “national hero” who had “stooped to commit this offence”. Mr Davies stated that none of the legally-held weapons were loaded and that Allen began using cannabis to self-medicate for a bad back.
Jailing Allen for 43 months, Recorder Kate Bex QC said: “I’m satisfied that it’s correct to say that you had a leading role on the basis that you directed and organised the production of cannabis on a commercial scale.”