Cannabis factory councillor jailed

Steven Crowther at Hull Crown Court last Friday
Steven Crowther at Hull Crown Court last Friday

A PARISH councillor who boasted he was an anti-drug role model to kids was told by a judge he was guilty of sickening hypocrisy as he jailed him for 15 months for helping to run a £7,000 drugs factory opposite his village business.

Flamborough parish councillor Stephen Crowther, 55, was told by Judge Jeremy Richardson, QC at a hearing at Hull Crown Court last Friday: “You purported to be anti-drugs in public and yet in private you were involved in cannabis production. It was nauseating hypocrisy quite apart from it being a serious crime.

“I have no hesitation in saying your criminality warrants an immediate custodial sentence.

“You have served your community in the past and have let them down badly. You have brought shame on your family. You have caused that and no one else.”

Married Crowther, 55, of Marine Valley, who used to run Flamborough DIY and has a haulage business, initially insisted he had rented the vacant unit on Bempton Lane Industrial Estate to a gypsy – who he knew only as John and who police should have been able to trace – for £150 a month.

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he pleaded guilty to being concerned in the production of a controlled Class B drug, cannabis, between September 1 2009 and September 16 2009.

Crown barrister Howard Shaw told the court that on December 14 2009 police raided Crowther’s rented unit on the Bempton Lane Industrial Estate, Flamborough.

“They found growing trays, heating lighting and equipment for drugs and 123 plants,” said Mr Shaw.

“There was a growing tent, flower pots and the usual paraphernalia you find in cases of this kind. There were electrical equipment transformers and the like – an indicator of future expansion.”

The street value of the skunk was £6,940 – enough for 348 street deals valued at £20 each.

Police found Crowther’s van abandoned three miles away in Bempton Road, Bridlington. It contained 14 illegal plants.

When they went to an isolated former electricity substation at Arras Hill near Market Weighton, which Crowther let, they found shelving and ducting equipment he admitted could be used for growing cannabis.

Mr Shaw said: “When arrested (in connection with the Flamborough find) he told police: “I knew it was there. I had only just found out about it. It was nothing to do with me or Scott (his grandson).”

At an earlier hearing Crowther said he had rented the unit out to man called John for £150, implicating him as the producer of the cannabis.

He told police: “I only just found out about it. I am responsible for bringing kids on. I am totally anti-drugs. I am a parish councillor in Flamborough and I started a youth committee for children in Flamborough. I am a role model in that. I am not going to be dealing in drugs.”

In court last Friday, mitigating barrister Andrew Stranex said: “What he did in 2009 was extremely stupid and he must bear the consequences of it.

“There must be significant consequences of these offences for this defendant’s family. He is primarily concerned for his wife and not himself. He has been a successful businessman.

“He has worked hard to build up his business. He was able to make payment to six employees in his haulage business last night who rely on him He is extremely concerned for his business if he is to go to custody.”

Judge Jeremy Richardson, QC, said his story was “shameful” and not public spirited.

He said: “Those that involve themselves in the cultivation off illegal drugs must expect a custodial sentence of some substance.

“In my judgement this defendant was much more involved than he purports to be. He allowed his industrial units to be used to grow cannabis plants and was planning another at Market Weighton.

“He was knowingly and fully involved in the production of cannabis. He allowed his van to be used for the transportation of plants. Others were involved.

He told Crowther: “It is plain you were planning another plant at Market Weighton. You were involved in a significant way. You were a pillar of the community as a parish councillor and you started a youth committee in the past.

“I don’t doubt you have served your community historically. You have, however, done them a grave dis-service.

“The time for mercy would have been if you pleaded guilty at the first opportunity. But you did not do that. You indulged in nauseating hypocrisy.”

Mr Crowther nodded to his wife in the public gallery as he was led to a cell below court and a waiting prison van.

He resigned as a parish councillor after a previous hearing and had said he would eventually move out of Flamborough.

He is to be the subject to a separate police inquiry into his assets so that he will not benefit from crime.

A spokesperson for Flamborough Parish Council said they did not wish to comment on the case.