A weed farmer worked in a commercial-scale cannabis factory to pay off a £20,000 debt to the gangsters who trafficked him to the UK from Albania.

Gentian Haroku, 33, wasn’t told where he’d been working off the debt and had never worked with the class B drug before he was placed in the converted Cutteslowe house.

Jailing him for six months, Recorder John Hardy QC said: “I’ve taken into account everything that’s been so ably advanced by [your barrister].

“The prevalence of this kind of offending particularly in this particular area is such that those who engage in this conduct can only be dealt with by way of immediate custodial sentences.”

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Prosecutor Dr Robert Lindsey told Oxford Crown Court that police were called to the property in Kendall Crescent, Cutteslowe, on December 3, 2019, in connection with another allegation that was not pursued by the force.

When officers arrived Haroku was one of a number of men who fled from the house.

Inside the property, six out of the eight rooms had been given over to growing cannabis. There was a professional set-up with heat lamps and a bath full of liquid fertiliser. Living quarters for two people had been set up in an annexe.

The 230 ‘viable’ plants were said by a Thames Valley Police drugs expert to have a wholesale value of £55,000 and a potential street value of around £140,000.

Fingerprints and DNA taken from items inside the house were a match for Haroku and he was arrested several months later in Leicester.

He was interviewed by the police and answered no comment to all questions asked of him.

In mitigation, it was said the defendant arrived in the UK from Albania in 2019. “He came here to make a better life for himself. When he first arrived he lived around Oxford,” barrister Michael McAlinden said.

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“He paid traffickers £20,000 to come into the country. This was a very large debt which he had to pay back.

“He was told he would be put into a place of work. He didn’t know what that place would be.”

Once he was installed in the house he realised he was tending cannabis. He had not done that line of work before, the court was told.

He had since settled down, was married in May 2021 and had applied to the Home Office for permission to stay in the UK. He had hopes of legitimate employment.

Asking for the judge to spare his client an immediate prison sentence, Mr McAlinden said: “He’s not a grave criminal. He was put in a difficult position and he made a stupid mistake.”

Haroku, of Narborough Road, Leicester, pleaded guilty at the magistrates’ court to producing cannabis.

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