Court orders pensioner to pay £17K for cannabis land

PUBLISHED: 15:57 15 July 2016 | UPDATED: 15:58 15 July 2016

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Pensioner Maureen Pearson, from Woodbury Salterton, must pay £17K for allowing cannabis to be grown on her land, says Judge

A businesswoman who allowed a customer to grow cannabis on her land at Woodbury Salterton has been ordered to pay £17,000 under the proceeds of crime act, even though she never made a penny from the venture.

Maureen Pearson, who runs a fishing business in East Devon, will have to remortgage her home to pay back the cash while the actual grower will repay nothing because he is broke and in prison.

Pearson, aged 73, agreed to let Tiverton man William Woolfenden take over a shed on her land at Woodbury Salterton where he was growing 71 cannabis plants until they were found by police.

He was paying rent to Pearson, who needed the money to keep her fish farm going, but she ended up making a loss because the £22,000 electricity bill was far more than the £17,000 she received.

At a hearing at Exeter Crown Court last December Pearson, admitted production of cannabis and Woolfenden, aged 63, of Palmerston Park, Tiverton, admitted production and supply of the drug.

They were both jailed for 20 months by Judge Francis Gilbert, QC, but Pearson’s sentence was suspended so she could carry on caring for her seriously ill, blind, 90-year-old husband, who has since died.

Judge Erik Salomonsen rubber stamped an agreed settlement under which the amount by which Pearson benefited was set at £17,000 and her available assets calculated as £135,000.

He ordered her to repay the money within three months but told her this will be extended if necessary.

No order was sought against Woolfenden, who has no assets, although £10,000 seized at the time has already been forfeited.

The Judge told Pearson: “The sky has rather fallen in on you as a consequence of one stupid agreement. The consequences have been Draconian, but that is the law we have.”

Miss Emily Pitts, defending, said: “This case arose because somebody took advantage of her. She is dealing with the loss of her husband and now has to find £17,000 even though she made no money because her electricity bill was £22,000.

“The house is currently in probate because of Mr Pearson’s death and she is going to look into an equity release scheme.”

Mr James Taghdissian, prosecuting, said no Proceeds of Crime Act case is being brought against the cannabis grower because he has no assets and all his cash was seized at the time of his arrest.

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