A CANNABIS farmer was cultivating plants with a potential street value of £32,000 after he taught himself online how to grow them.

Geraint Merkel, 37, converted the upstairs of his home into a “sophisticated” factory and was tending to a crop in two bedrooms, the landing and the attic.

Thomas Stanway, prosecuting, said police found 49 plants when they raided the property at Woodland Terrace in the Abertridwr area of Caerphilly on August 4, 2019.

Cardiff Crown Court how Merkel had bypassed the electricity supplier and was getting the energy he was using for free.

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Mr Stanway added: “The defendant was interviewed by the police on March 19, 2020 and he admitted producing cannabis.

“He told officers he was suffering from anxiety and depression and was growing the cannabis with a view of using if for himself.”

Merkel later abandoned his claim that the drugs would have been for his own personal use.

The defendant, now of Graig Terrace, Senghenydd, Caerphilly, pleaded guilty to producing cannabis and abstracting electricity without authority

Merkel had 12 previous convictions for 40 offences but none for any drug-related matters.

The court heard how the defendant was jailed for 14 months in 2014 for the offence of wounding.

Hashim Salmman, mitigating, said the prosecution’s delay in bringing the case to court was “breath-taking”.

He told how of how it took seven months for his client to be “invited” by the police for an interview.

His barrister added how Merkel had then made admissions to the officers on March 19, 2020.

The judge, Recorder David O’Mahony, told Merkel: “This was a sophisticated set-up.

“You had learnt how to grow cannabis online.”

He said the defendant had lost his job at the time of the offending but had found new employment which involved him travelling throughout the UK.

Merkel was jailed for 12 months, suspended for 18 months.

He was ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work and told he had to pay £420 prosecution costs.