Trial halted after defence counsel withdraws

THE trial of a man charged with helping to produce thousands of pounds worth of cannabis was halted this week after his defence withdrew from the case.

The defence counsel representing 41-year-old Kevin Hart told the court on Monday - a week into the trial - that they were no longer able to continue, leaving judge Gareth Hawkesworth with no option but to discharge the jury.

A retrial has provisionally been order for January next year.

Hart was standing trial in connection with the discovery of more than 7,000 ‘skunk’ plants, a powerful strain of cannabis, at Tree Farm in Haddenham in July last year, the largest haul ever discovered by police in Cambridgeshire.

The prosecution described the operation as “highly professional” and said that if all plants were left the reach maturity, their street value could have been as much as �3million.

The jury heard that the barn was originally rented by Hart in 2007 after an item was placed in an agricultural publication advertising its availability.

More than �200,000 worth of modifications were made to the barn, on Hill Row, to make it capable of housing the plants, with extractor equipment, hydroponics and high powered lighting brought in.

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Hart, 41, of Elm Close, Huntingdon, told the court that he believed the barn was being used to grow salvia divinorum, a type of sage, and immediately severed his ties with the operation after realising that the plants were cannabis.

The 41-year-old, said he was 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.

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.