‘Cannabis production started after my 70mph crash,’ man says

A MAN charged with helping to produce thousands of pounds worth of cannabis at a barn in Haddenham has insisted the illegal drug was only grown after he left the operation.

Giving evidence at Cambridge Crown Court, 41-year-old Kevin Hart said he was involved in growing salvia divinorum, a hallucinogenic variety of sage, up until January 2010 after which he cut his ties with the venture and cannabis was brought in without his knowledge.

Hart is standing trial charged with conspiracy to produce a class B drug at Tree Farm on Hill Road, which was uncovered by police last July. He denies the charge.

On Friday, Hart told the jury that after taking out a lease on the barn in 2007 he helped carry out building work in order to begin growing salvia divinorum.

More than �200,000 of equipment was installed at the barn including ventilation, heating and lighting equipment which, Hart said, took about a year to complete.

The 41-year-old continued to be involved with the operation, paying rent on the barn and thousands of pounds in utility bills, up until January 15 last year when he was involved in an accident that left him with serious injuries.

The court heard that Hart broke ribs, bruised a lung and gashed his head after going through the windscreen of his car in the 70mph smash, rendering him unable to work or leave the house.

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Hart told the court that at the time of the accident the barn contained between 1500-2000 salvia divinorum plants and no cannabis. He said that in the months after his accident he was unable to visit the barn, in which time, he said, the production was switched to cannabis.

When the barn was raided by police in July, more than 7,000 ‘skunk’ plants were discovered, a crop which officers estimated to have a street value of up to �3million.

On Tuesday, Crown prosecutor John Farmer described the operation as “highly professional”.

Mr Farmer also said Hart’s fingerprints had been discovered by police on equipment inside the barn and highlighted an invoice from a company that supplied carbon dioxide, a crucial component to cannabis growth, inside Hart’s car.

According to Hart, of Elm Close, Huntingdon however, his car was regularly used by other members of the operation, who would use it to go and buy the gas.

The trial continues.