AN experienced drug dealer was jailed after he “took advantage” of a “naïve” aspiring musician and helped her turn her home into a cannabis factory.

Paul Ratledge, 34, and Louise Bernard, 52, teamed up to grow the class B drug at her semi-detached house in Tredegar.

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Meirion Davies, prosecuting, told Cardiff Crown Court how the pair’s operation was shut down last year when Bernard didn’t pay her energy bill.

He said: “An employee of the electricity company with others went to the house in Tredegar with a warrant to enter the property over unpaid bills.


“When they entered the building, they found an extensive cannabis cultivation and contacted the police.

“The defendant Bernard soon came home and told officers, ‘I’ve been doing this to change my life and become a musician.

“My sister was killed in an accident and I never had any compensation.

“Nothing in my life has come to any good.

“I can’t even pay my rent.”

Mr Davies said analysis of Bernard’s mobile phone led them to her co-defendant.

When he was arrested at his Ebbw Vale home, police recovered more than £5,000 in cash.

The defendants were growing 66 plants at their cannabis factory in Tredegar.

The value of crop was placed at being worth around £22,000 to £33,660.

Ratledge, 34, of Queensway, Garnlydan, Ebbw Vale, and Louise Bernard, 52, now of Cae Bold, Caernarfon, Gwynedd, admitted producing cannabis.

Their offences were committed between September 10, 2019 and January 24, 2020.

Ratledge had previous convictions for drug dealing.

The most significant was for conspiracy to supply cocaine for which he was jailed for five years and eight months in 2015.

His current offending put him in breach of his licence conditions for that conviction.

Bernard was a woman of previous good character with nothing on her record.

Ian Ibrahim, representing her, said: “Her sister passed away when she was 18 and it has haunted her her entire life.”

Bernard’s barrister said his client had been engaged but separated from her partner after their business went bust in the wake of the 2007/08 financial crisis.

Jeffrey Jones, for Ratledge, asked the judge to suspend his jail sentence following the 16-month delay in bringing the case to court.

He told how his client was running a “successful” decorating business.

The judge, Recorder David Harris, told Ratledge: “This was a substantial operation located in the home of Louise Bernard.

“You had a greater role than her. You provided the expertise and the equipment.

“It seems to me you took advantage of her naivety and used her home as a base.”

Ratledge was jailed for three years.

Recorder Harris said he was able to suspend Bernard’s sentence because of her previous good character.

She was jailed for 16 months, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete a 20-day rehabilitation activity requirement.

Both the defendants are due to face Proceeds of Crime Act proceedings later this year.