Two men walked free from court for their role in a Cotmanhay cannabis farm which could have flooded the streets with £84,000 worth of the drug.
Ilkeston police found the illegal operation in a terraced house in Stratford Street on March 17 last year – but one suspect who lived in the house for nine months is still on the run.
At Nottingham Crown Court two others admitted being involved in the production of cannabis.
A one-year jail term, suspended for a year, was imposed on Ian Walters, 42, of Astral Grove, Hucknall, who must do 120 hours unpaid community work. He also admitted abstraction of electricity.
An order to carry out 60 hours unpaid work was imposed on Mark Hallam, 28, of Abbey Road, Newstead Village.
Judge Michael Stokes QC, the Recorder of Nottingham, told them: “This case is getting on for 21 months old, largely because of the absence of the prime mover as he will certainly be spoken as if he is ever arrested. You have had to wait a considerable time to be dealt with.”
The judge said Hallam’s part was ‘almost peripheral’ because his fingerprint was found on a bulb in the cannabis growing set-up.
He said Walters deserved jail for his role in what was ‘obviously in part a commercial enterprise’, but the judge added: “Given the substantial delay, which is not of your making, and the fact you have completed satisfactorily a community order for an unrelated offence, I am prepared to suspend the inevitable sentence.”
Jeremy Janes, prosecuting, said police found ‘a hydroponic cannabis growing operation’ and evidence suggested the production of an earlier crop which could have made a £19,000 profit.
There were 89 flowering plants in one room and 299 seedlings in a bedroom ‘set up as a nursery area’.
Mr Janes said: “This was plainly commercial. If it had been sold in small one-eighth deals, it would have produced about £84,000 but considerably less wholesale.”
It was thought about £4,000 electricity had been used after the meter was by-passed.
Although a third man was arrested, he had never faced court. Mr Janes said ‘police have been expeditious’ in trying to find the other man who ‘has decided he doesn’t want to face the music’.
Hallam’s fingerprints were found on five light bulbs recovered from the house, Friday’s hearing was told.
Michael Evans, for Walters, accepted the offence ‘clearly passes the custody threshold’ but pointed out that a pre-sentence report suggested the prison term could be suspended and linked to unpaid work.
Claire Moran, for Hallam, agreed that his role was ‘peripheral’.