Four men who set up a £100,000 cannabis grow in a derelict stately home in Cumbria have been spared jail.

Bankfield Hall, in Great Urswick, is earmarked by developers to be transformed into a luxury 80-bedroom wedding venue.

The Mail:

But behind its crumbling facade, police found a secret drugs operation when they raided the property in January 2019.

Locals reported an increase in activity at the hall, which has laid empty for 17 years.

Security around the gated site was stepped up with ‘do not enter’ signs and guard dogs ‘running free’ in the grounds.

The Mail:

Today, at Preston Crown Court, three men from Liverpool and a board member for Bankfield Hall were sentenced for their roles in the operation.

Brothers Terence Clark, 37, and Jack Clark, 22, and Stephen Dale, 22, pleaded guilty to production of cannabis.

Daniel Wood, 28, admitted two counts of allowing premises to be used for the production of class B drugs.

The Mail:

On Thursday January 3, officers from Cumbria Constabulary visited the site and found a door, secured by a padlock.

Behind it they discovered three separate growing areas, containing 390 cannabis plants with an estimated street value of £88,000.

Each growing area was kitted out with ventilation and lighting, to enhance the growing capacity of the cannabis.

The Mail:

A blackboard was on the wall, with ‘Lemon Haze’ and dates listed between October and December 2018, suggesting the strain of cannabis being grown.

Jack Clark and Stephen Dale were inside the premises, carrying a large piece of equipment which would be used for harvesting the buds from mature plants.

A flat in the coach house also contained plants and the electricity had been bypassed, the court heard.

While officers were searching the manor house, Wood returned in a Ford van and confessed he was the owner of the premises.

Officers moved to his luxury home, Scales Green Farm, in nearby Scales.

There was an Audi R8 parked in the driveway and a barn within the grounds had been converted into a second cannabis farm, where 98 plants with a street value of £22,000 were found.

The Clark brothers, Dale and Wood were arrested on suspicion of cannabis production and were interviewed at a local police station.

Wood admitted he was on the board of directors for Bankfield Hall and said he was introduced to the three other men through a third party.

He knew about the operation and sometimes visited the site, but was not irectly involved in growing the cannabis, he said.

Sentencing the men, Judge Simon Medland QC, said: “Whatever you think about the drug, it is harmful.

“I see time and again people whose health and wellbeing has been seriously compromised by cannabis. It has significant mental health impacts - especially when it is in its strong form.

“This court sees all too often people whose mental health has been seriously impacted by taking cannabis. It is not risk free and for that reason it is unlawful to possess and grow it, and that is what you were doing.

“You were growing it on what was undoubtedly a commercial scale.”

He sentenced Terence Clark, of Sevenacre Road, Liverpool, to two years suspended for two years, with six months drug rehabilitation and 150 hours unpaid work.

Jack Clark, also of Sevenacre Road, was sentenced to 14 months suspended for two with 25 days rehabilitation activity requirements, and a six month alcohol treatment program.

Stephen Dale, of Bowland Drive, Liverpool, was handed a two year community order with 30 days rehabilitation and 80 hours unpaid work, and Daniel Wood was handed six months suspended for 12 months.

A proceeds of crime hearing will take place in March 2021.