A FATHER-OF-THREE became a cannabis farmer to help pay off a debt of more than £30,000, a court was told.

Daniel Gerrard, of Slad Road, Stroud, produced the drug from a flat in Reservoir Road, Gloucester, which was equipped with high-powered lighting, ventilation equipment and oscillating fans.

He was jailed for two years at Gloucester Crown Court on Tuesday, August 7, after admitting producing cannabis and falsely obtaining £4,492 worth of electricity at an earlier magistrates court hearing. Prosecutor Lisa Hennessy told the court police went to the flat on September 12 last year and found 162 plants of various stages of maturity and cannabis production equipment in the attic. Officers also found a cannabis growing manual and scales, plus £2,240 in cash.

The plants would have yielded around 4.03 kilograms of flowering heads - worth more than £11,400 at street value.

Miss Hennessy added that an electricity meter had been tampered with in the property, which Gerrard had been a tenant in since 2007.

When initially interviewed by police, Gerrard made no comment but admitted under subsequent questioning that he owed £31,000 and became a cannabis grower to pay off the debt. He refused to identify others involved in the operation.

Joe Maloney, defending, said Gerrard was a man of good character with no previous convictions who was 'very highly thought of' by those who knew him.

He had been under some pressure to pay off his debt but realised the seriousness of his actions and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.

Jailing Gerrard, Judge Tabor said: "The production of cannabis on a commercial scale is rife throughout the country. "It is rife for one reason only and that is because there is a lot of money in it.

"This set up had all the trappings of professional cannabis production and the amount of electricity that was used indicated this was a big operation."