A Pevensey couple have been jailed after admitting their part in a massive £3 million cannabis farming project in Kent.
Darren Wright, 47, and his wife Debra, 48, of Eastbourne Road, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to produce the drug at locations in Kent between April 2008 and April this year, were jailed for five years eight months and three years respectively.
As he sentenced them at Maidstone Crown Court Judge Michael Carroll he had set Debra Wright’s sentence to enable her to be back with her 17-year-old daughter “before too long.”
The court had heard that two other daughters of the Wrights had died in tragic circumstances.
The Wrights had fled to Spain when arrests were being made to a property that they had bought with the money made from drug sales. However, they were traced and extradited back to this country in June.
The court was told that they began running the cannabis enterprise after two of their daughters had died.
Prosecuting counsel, Francesca Levett, said that cannabis valued at around £3 million was found during police raids on properties in Ashford, Dover and Whitstable and that two other cannabis “factories” were found operating at houses the Wrights owned in Herne Bay. As he jailed the Wrights the judge said that the cannabis growing operation was on an “industrial” scale.
“It is difficult to comprehend the scale of this conspiracy and to find parts of it that you had no direct bearing on,” he said.
He said he accepted Wright had gone “off the rails” after the death of his daughters but added, “I cannot accept it is the main reason for your involvement. It may have made you more vulnerable. However, you were an extremely active and involved conspirator.” The judge told Debra Wright, “Your criminal activities were widespread. You were a willing lieutenant to your husband’s activities. Clearly, you acted enthusiastically when called upon to do so, living off the proceeds of crime.
“You have a future. You have a daughter. This is something I can take into account. I will tailor the sentence accordingly so that before long you will able to rejoin her.”
DC Donna Hopper, from Kent Police, added, “It is estimated that the potential income from these factories was within the region of £4m with some of the factories containing around 2,000 plants.
“It was a sophisticated set up managed by Vietnamese illegal immigrants who had to live in cramped and dangerous conditions.
“Evidence of the Wright’s involvement came as a result of extensive enquiries following the discovery of a number of individual factories. We were able to link the factories to a John Read who was imprisoned for 10-years in 2011 for three of those finds.
“With the discovery of two more cannabis houses in Herne Bay in 2012 the net tightened on the Wrights and they fled to Spain. It transpired they owned property there and by working with the Spanish Police we were able to locate them and extradite them back to the UK.
“Our message is simple; we will relentlessly pursue those who try to evade justice - there is no escape. We work closely with forces in other countries and will leave no stone unturned to ensure that those responsible for criminal activity are held to account.”