Man called fire crew after failing to put out flames in loft where cannabis grew



Man called fire crew after failing to put out flames in loft where cannabis grew


Firefighters discovered what they believed to be cannabis


A Street man who called the fire brigade when his loft went up in flames was found to have been using it to grow his own cannabis plants.

Darius Rolls had tried to douse the fire himself without success so was forced to dial 999 and fire crews arrived at his home address.

After the fire was put out firefighters saw what they believed were cannabis plants in the loft area and a further search by police revealed more plants alongside a quantity of the drug and growing equipment.

The 38-year-old defendant, of Brooks Road, pleaded guilty to producing 15 plants of cannabis (class B) at Street on March 29 when he appeared before Somerset Magistrates.

He also admitted being in possession of 25.5g of stalk and leaf cannabis, 29.37g of leaf with flowering head mixed in, 1.8g of stalk and leaf and 16.8g flowering head of cannabis.

The court was told that on the day in question police had a call from the fire service after a loft fire at an address in Brooks Road in Street.

“When officers arrived the fire had been put out but the crew believed they saw cannabis plants in the loft space,” she said.


“The defendant had tried to put the fire out himself before calling the fire service and when the police conducted a further search they discovered more plants in his bedroom and in the loft.”

She said that a total of 15 plants were found, four of them were small between 4 and 8cm, but there were a further 11 larger plants around 45cm high.

The police also recovered a total of 103.57g of cannabis in the house which included the stalks of the plants.

“Rolls admitted the offences when he was interviewed by the police saying he suffered with serious back injuries and used cannabis to alleviate his pain, and it was only as a result of the fire that the police found what he had been doing,” added Miss Lenanton.

Defending solicitor Neil Priest said his client had nothing to do with the onset of the fire, with the cause still unknown, and Rolls had liaised with the fire service himself.


“He admitted at the police station that he was responsible for the production of the cannabis as he has suffered for over 20 years with significant spinal injuries in his back, including numbness,” he said.

“The only reason he uses cannabis is for pain relief and that is supported by the fact that he was growing a special type of genuine medicinal cannabis.”

He said there were only a small number of plants and Rolls was no longer living at that address as he had moved in with his father to help care for him.

The defendant was also on sickness benefits which reflected the level of his physical difficulties.

The magistrates fined the defendant £120 for production of the cannabis with £40 towards costs and a £30 victim surcharge but made no separate penalty for the possession offence.

They also made an order for the forfeiture and destruction of the cannabis and growing equipment.





Man claimed six large cannabis plants worth thousands of pounds were ‘for his own personal use’



Man claimed six large cannabis plants worth thousands of pounds were ‘for his own personal use’


A man who claimed six large cannabis plants worth thousands of pounds were “for his own personal use” has been fined for growing the class B drug at a house in Wentworth.


A man was arrested after police discovered cannabis plants during a raid in Wentworth. The offender was interviewed on site. Picture: POLICING EAST CAMBS/FACEBOOK.


The 24-year-old was voluntarily interviewed when Rural Crime Action Team officers carried out a warrant in Church Road on Thursday morning (July 25).


“Approximately six large cannabis plants were discovered with a potential street value of between £1,680 and £5,040” said a police spokesman.

“A 24-year-old man from Wentworth was voluntarily interviewed at the scene. He claimed the cannabis was his and that it was for his own personal use.


A man was arrested after police discovered cannabis plants during a raid in Wentworth. The offender was interviewed on site. Picture: POLICING EAST CAMBS/FACEBOOK.



“He was handed a conditional caution for producing a class B drug – with conditions to pay a fine and that the cannabis and growing equipment be forfeited and destroyed.”

The warrant was carried out as part of Operation Zellwood, which focuses on removing drugs from Fenland and Cambridgeshire.




Half a million pound cannabis farm found in Bury after gas leak reported



Half a million pound cannabis farm found in Bury after gas leak reported


Police who were called by the fire service to reports of a gas leak in the Wash Lane area of Bury discovered a large cannabis farm, with more than 600 cannabis plants and an estimated value of over £500,000.

No arrests have been made but enquiries are ongoing.

Police Constable Joanne Irish of GMP’s Bury borough, said: “The supply and use of drugs on our street will not be tolerated, and a full investigation has been launched to find those responsible.

“Our biggest weapon in the fight against drugs is information from the public, so if you saw anything suspicious then please get in touch with us.


photo on link



Enslaved on a British cannabis farm: ‘The plants were more valuable than my life’



Enslaved on a British cannabis farm: ‘The plants were more valuable than my life’


Minh was 16 when he was kidnapped, raped and trafficked to the UK, and then locked up and forced to grow cannabis. But when the police found him, he was treated like a criminal rather than a victim. By Annie Kelly


The Guardian


 was still dark on the morning of 25 October 2013, when police smashed down the door of a seemingly empty two-floor house in a rural corner of Chesterfield. Once inside they found that their tip-off had been correct: the house, which at one time would have been a comfortable family home, was now a fully-functioning cannabis farm, complete with dozens of fully-grown cannabis plants, thousands of pounds’ worth of lights and equipment, and one terrified Vietnamese boy.


The boy had been asleep on a mattress in the living room when the police raid started. He had been jolted awake to the sound of loud banging and splintering wood as the front door gave way. The house, so long devoid of air and natural light, was suddenly flooded with flashlights and the noise of shouts and stamping boots. Minh (not his real name) scrambled backwards into a corner as he was surrounded by men in uniform asking him questions in English that he couldn’t understand. “I was very, very scared of these men,” he recalled recently. “But then I let myself believe that maybe they had come to rescue me.”


Minh was one of the hundreds of children trafficked from Vietnam every year and forced to work in hidden cannabis farms across the UK: small cogs in the vast criminal machine that supplies Britain’s £2.6bn cannabis black market. Children such as Minh are valuable assets for those who run cannabis farms: cheap, expendable, and easy to control and intimidate. They are smuggled overland from Vietnam to the UK, and trapped in a form of modern slavery that is now widespread across Britain.


Official estimates say around 13,000 individuals are trapped in some form of enslavement across the UK, and Vietnamese people make up the third-largest group of victims, with more than half of them under 18. Over the last three years, the British government has identified 491 Vietnamese minors as potential child-trafficking victims, the majority of them teenage boys working in cannabis cultivation. These are only the ones who have been found. Thousands more are estimated to be working undetected in makeshift cannabis farms in suburban houses, empty flats, deserted warehouses and derelict industrial estates. Others are forced to work in nail bars, brothels and restaurants, or kept in domestic servitude behind the doors of private residences.

Minh was 16 when he arrived in the UK. When he emerged from the back of a lorry somewhere near Dover in June 2013, he had no idea where he was or where he had been since he left Vietnam. He only knew he was here to work.


His memories of the three months he spent locked in the house are fractured and distorted by the fear, loneliness and stress that consumed him. His only visitors were Vietnamese men who would appear at the house every few weeks to check he was looking after the plants properly. They barely talked to him, leaving boxes of frozen meat that he heated up in an old microwave in the kitchen. They always locked the door behind them when they left. Apart from that, he was always alone. Behind the blackout blinds, days merged into night and back to day. Inside, Minh sat in the dark and the filth. He was hungry all the time, and terrified his food would run out. After a few days, the sweet, thick stench of the cannabis buds was overpowering, making him sick with headaches and nausea. He knew he would be in terrible trouble if the plants died, so every day he carried buckets of water upstairs to the plants and mixed chemicals into the soil.

Once, he says, he tried to get away, but was caught and brought back to the house, and was made to understand that he’d be killed if he tried to escape again. “It was like another kind of world,” he says. “I didn’t really even feel human. I understood very quickly that the plants were more valuable than my life.”


The day of the police raid marked the end of Minh’s enslavement and his liberation from his traffickers. But his ordeal was not over. Instead, Minh would find himself trapped in a system that treated him as a criminal rather than a victim. After being enslaved by drug gangs, he would be illegally incarcerated and violently assaulted while under the protection of the state. His fight for justice would lead to a landmark high court battle that raised painful and troubling questions about how the UK treats foreign children who have been trafficked and enslaved on British soil.


inh was born in poverty in a small village in the south of Vietnam in the mid-1990s. His mother and father were smallholding farmers who grew just about enough rice to feed the three of them. By the time he was 16, Minh longed to get away. When his chance came to follow some friends to Ho Chi Min city, he took it. He has not seen his parents since.

In Ho Chi Min, Minh says, he met up with friends and kicked around the city for a few days. They took him to a house full of much older men who he didn’t know. The men told him that they knew he was poor and needed work, and asked if he would he like to go to the UK. It was no problem, they said, that Minh didn’t have any money. He could pay them back when he started working.

Minh didn’t trust these men. He told them he wanted to go home. He looked to his friends for help, but they wouldn’t meet his eye. He says he was then dragged into another room, punched and kicked to the ground, and beaten with sticks. For the next few days he was kept in the house and forced to give the men oral sex. He was repeatedly raped. By the time the men showed Minh a piece of paper that said he owed them £20,000 for his passage to Europe, he was so terrified that he signed it. For extra insurance, the men told him they knew where his parents lived. If he didn’t pay the money back, they would hurt them, too.


So began Minh’s journey towards the cannabis farm in Chesterfield. The route he was taken on – overland across Russia, through eastern Europe to France and crossing to the UK in the back of a lorry – is the same that hundreds, if not thousands, of Vietnamese children take every year. Many of those making this journey have chosen to leave home, paying smugglers up to £30,000 for their passage to the UK and the promise of work in the thriving Vietnamese diaspora when they arrive.


Child-protection experts say the distinction between illegal migration and trafficking is a fragile one. “I’ve interviewed about 40 Vietnamese children who have travelled this route, and all of them without exception have been harmed and exploited on the way,” says Mimi Vue, a child-protection consultant. “There is this very deep-rooted belief that it is their filial responsibility to provide for their family, and that the debt is their burden to shoulder. It gives people who are looking to exploit and profit from them huge leverage.”


On his journey to the UK, Minh was passed from gang to gang, sleeping in a network of filthy apartments often crowded with other young Vietnamese boys and girls. He says he was beaten, starved and sexually assaulted. When Minh finally arrived in the UK, he knew no one, spoke no English, and he was frightened and in debt.

“These are just the prime conditions for exploitation,” says Vue. “The only people these kids know and can rely on by this point are their traffickers, who are in complete control of their lives.” Within hours of arriving, many of these children disappear into an underground world of illegal work.


The set-up that police found in Chesterfield – an empty property crudely converted into a cannabis farm using high-end but easily available growing technology, and one or two foreign “gardeners” – has been seen over and over again in cannabis busts nationwide. In 2014, the last year for which figures are available, police seized a total of 276,676 cannabis plants at thousands of properties across the UK, with an estimated street value of £62m.


“Vietnamese kids have always been trafficked into illegal work, but cannabis is a perfect industry for their exploitation,” says Vue. “It’s easy to conceal someone in an empty house, the police see cannabis cultivation as a low priority, and if they do raid the house, the kid is usually too terrified to share anything worthwhile with them. And they’ve broken the law, so they’re likely to be seen as criminals first and victims second.”


hen a confused and frightened Minh was interviewed at Chesterfield police station in October 2013, he didn’t tell officers about how he had come to be in the cannabis house, or that he had been forced to look after the plants. “They didn’t ask, so I didn’t say anything,” he says. “I didn’t know I was allowed.”


Because he was 16, he was remanded into local authority care and told he would have to appear in front of a judge to answer criminal charges. There were no foster places available, so he was driven to a B&B on the outskirts of Chesterfield by a social worker and told to wait for someone to tell him what to do next. But every time Minh thought about the police or going in front of a judge, he felt like his heart would explode with panic. The only people he knew in the UK – his traffickers – had told him that if the police found him they would put him in prison and never let him out again. They said that if he got the chance, he should run. So that’s what he did.


He left the B&B with £30 that the social worker had given him and took a bus to Sheffield. “When I got off the bus, I was in a strange city,” he said. “Then I began to feel guilty about getting into trouble, so I tried to get back to the house, but by then I didn’t know the way back.”


Minh wandered aimlessly around Sheffield for two days, sitting in parks, picking food out of bins and sleeping at the train station. Then, on the third day, while sitting on a park bench, he was approached by an older Vietnamese man who spoke kindly to him in his own language and offered him food and somewhere to stay. Minh remained with the man and his family, first in Sheffield and then in Liverpool, for more than two years. But this all changed in February 2016 when he was picked up during an immigration raid in Liverpool. When his records were checked and his outstanding cannabis cultivation charge was found, he was arrested again.


This time, Minh told the police what had happened to him in the cannabis house in Chesterfield. They called the Home Office, who sent an immigration official to interview him. They immediately passed his details on to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), which identifies and offers protection to victims of human trafficking. A few days later, the Home Office said there were reasonable grounds to assume Minh had been a victim of slavery.


At this point, his criminal charges should have been suspended, but the Crown prosecution service was never informed of the Home Office’s decision. Minh’s lawyer had no experience of trafficking cases and advised him to plead guilty. A month later, Minh’s case went to court and he was convicted of cannabis production and sentenced to eight months at Glen Parva young offenders institution in Leicestershire.


Being locked up again in Glen Parva had a catastrophic effect on Minh. Before it was closed in 2017, Glen Parva was notorious as one of the UK’s worst places to be incarcerated. A few years before Minh arrived, conditions had been condemned by the government’s Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) as “deplorable” and a “toxic melting pot” of gang rivalry, bullying and mismanagement. It was also, according to the IMB, dangerous, unsanitary and under-resourced.

Minh, who at the time still spoke no English, was locked in his cell for up to 21 hours a day. He says he was bullied by both inmates and staff, denied food and racially abused. There were a number of other Vietnamese teenagers at Glen Parva, most of them on cannabis cultivation charges, but they were of little comfort to each other. “We were kept apart, and even when we saw each other, what did we have to say? All of us knew that nobody was coming to help us,” says Minh.

Four months into his eight-month sentence, Minh – who was acknowledged as a model prisoner by staff – was told he was about to be released. “I thought I was going back to Liverpool,” he says. But two days before he was to be released, Minh was told the Home Office had decided to detain him indefinitely under immigration powers.

When he did leave, it was in the back of another prison van. In June 2016, he was taken from his cell in handcuffs, and would be held in a series of immigration detention centres for another 13 months.

Under official Home Office guidelines, detention is deemed unsuitable for trafficking victims because it is recognised as a potentially replicating the isolation, submission and physical constriction that they suffered at the hands of their traffickers. Despite this, the first piece of research into this issue, which was based on responses to extensive freedom of information requests and published this month, estimated that at least 507 victims of trafficking were in detention in prisons and immigration centres across the country in 2018.


Now, six years after Minh was found at the cannabis farm in Chesterfield, Derbyshire police have acknowledged that serious errors were made that led to his being detained as a criminal. When the officers who conducted the raid found Minh, they should have followed official protocol and used a set of human-trafficking indicators to identify that he was a potential victim.


Over the phone from Chesterfield, Det Insp Carl Chetwyn told me that Derbyshire police’s approach and awareness of modern slavery has changed since 2013, especially after the establishment of the UK’s Modern Slavery Act of 2015. “I really believe that what happened to that individual in 2013 wouldn’t happen now,” said Chetwyn. Derbyshire police now have one of the UK’s only dedicated modern slavery and trafficking units in their regional headquarters. “In a case like that, any child found inside a cannabis farm would and should be automatically taken out of that situation and given contact with social care and referred into the NRM,” said Chetwyn. “We can’t arrest our way out of this criminality.”


But across the UK, children found in cannabis farms are still being criminalised. “Training is so patchy that you have areas of good practice, but there are large parts of the UK where the police still don’t know how to recognise child-trafficking,” says Lynne Chitty, who is programme director for anti-trafficking charity Love 146 and has run a safe house for child-trafficking victims in the south of England for 10 years. “Kids who should be protected are still being badly failed.”



n March 2017, Kate Macpherson, a trainee lawyer with law firm Duncan Lewis, arrived at Brook House, a sprawling, low-rise immigration removal centre near Gatwick airport. Macpherson was there to assess a new client who had just been taken on by a senior colleague and had been identified as needing urgent assistance.


Macpherson made her way through the security checks and met up with a translator, and together they walked to a small interview room at the back of the centre. Through the glass Macpherson saw a small, slight Vietnamese teenager sitting bent over at a table dressed in a T-shirt and tracksuit bottoms. It was Minh.

Macpherson had interviewed other detainees in immigration detention before, but immediately saw that Minh was in extreme distress. He was pale and shaking, his body covered in a red raw rash. “He could barely communicate,” she says. “Even speaking Vietnamese to the translator, he was unable to answer very basic questions. His mind was all over the place. He couldn’t make eye contact. He had completely withdrawn into himself.”


“When I walked away from that first meeting I had this sense of real panic,” she says. “It felt really very wrong to be leaving this very young and extremely vulnerable young person in an environment that was so clearly causing him immense pain and psychological stress. I understood enough from what he’d told me that he was quite possibly a victim of trafficking.”

The next day, Macpherson’s colleague at Duncan Lewis, Ahmed Aydeed, started to go through Minh’s case notes. At 32, Aydeed is ambitious about using public law to force change in the UK’s immigration system. He had already taken on more than a dozen clients who had been trafficked in the UK, but Minh’s story stood out.


Aydeed and Macpherson met with Minh multiple times over the next month, piecing together what had happened to him since he arrived in the UK. Even though Minh was slowly revealing his story, something about his case bothered Aydeed and Macpherson. “We just got the sense that something really terrible had happened to him in immigration detention that he wasn’t disclosing,” says Aydeed. It took them a few more weeks to gain Minh’s trust before he could tell them what had happened.


Minh eventually described how, in October 2016, a few months after being transferred to Morton Hall immigration removal centre, he was attacked and sexually assaulted by another inmate, who trapped him in his cell and tried to rape him. Later that day, Minh and a friend saw his attacker in the dining hall and a scuffle broke out. When he was interviewed by staff about the commotion, Minh told them about the assault. Under their own policies, Morton Hall should have immediately launched an investigation and reported the attack to the police. But they did nothing.


For Minh, the sexual assault did serious damage to his already fragile mental health. It was, he says, like a kind of death, triggering vivid and violent memories of being raped by his traffickers. “It just felt like my life was over. I just understood that I was not safe anywhere,” he says. “I was very scared of the other inmates and that something like this would happen again. I knew I couldn’t trust the staff there to protect me.”

Aydeed experienced what he described as “cold fury” when he learned what had happened to his client in Morton Hall. “The attack had happened more than five months before we first met Minh, but nothing had been done to protect him,” he says.


When Minh’s lawyers demanded an explanation from Morton Hall, the management initially said they hadn’t considered the attack a serious incident, and that Minh “did not suffer as a result”. Yet Minh had repeatedly told medical staff he was a victim of sexual and physical violence. He also told them he was experiencing relentless flashbacks. He often couldn’t sleep, and when he did, he had violent nightmares about being hunted.

“What they had on their hands was someone who had repeatedly disclosed that he had experienced rape, trauma, abduction, trafficking and torture,” says Aydeed. “Their failure to take this assault seriously was at best incompetence and at worst an indication of the culture of disbelief and disregard for the detainees in their care.”

The solicitors threatened legal action if the Home Office didn’t reconsider Minh’s case. On 12 May 2017, the Home Office formally identified Minh as a victim of modern slavery, yet still refused to release him from detention. When the solicitors demanded the Home Office open an investigation into his trafficking, the Home Office launched proceedings to deport him back to Vietnam, setting a removal date of 26 May. Minh was hours away from deportation when his solicitors got the removal orders against him quashed.

“They just fought and fought us on his case,” says Aydeed. “Even when they had admitted that he had probably been illegally detained, even when they admitted that he was a victim of trafficking, they just would not release him. It was almost perverse.”


After Minh was identified as a victim of trafficking, Duncan Lewis commissioned an independent medical assessment. Dr Frank Arnold of Forrest Medico-Legal Services, a global specialist who helps document the experiences of victims of torture, visited Minh at Brook House. Afterwards, Arnold wrote a blistering report concluding that Minh’s physical scars were consistent with a history of violent physical and sexual abuse, and that he was suffering from acute PTSD. He had, Arnold’s report concluded, suffered considerably at the hands of both his traffickers and the UK government.

“During my time as anti-slavery commissioner, I saw child victims from Vietnam go through absolute hell,” said Kevin Hyland, who worked at the Metropolitan police before becoming the UK’s first anti-slavery commissioner in 2015, when the Modern Slavery Act was established. “And then when they get pulled into our criminal justice system, it’s as if they’re entering this vast machine, where once you’re inside it is almost impossible to change course. The Home Office ends up defending a position almost as if it’s gone beyond the point where they can see people as human beings,” he says.


Other anti-trafficking experts have warned that many trafficking victims, who often have insecure immigration status, fell prey to the “hostile environment” approach towards immigration adopted during Theresa May’s time as home secretary.


On the morning of 14 June 2017, Minh finally walked out of immigration detention and into a safe house arranged by the Salvation Army. It had been three years and eight months since he was escorted out of the cannabis house, imagining he had been rescued.


eeting Minh today, it’s hard to square the slight, softly spoken young man in his early 20s, in pressed blue jeans and trainers and tidy, gel-spiked hair, with the horrors that he has lived through. Yet often in our interviews his face slips, and you see the boy trapped among the plants in that airless, empty house six years ago.


He says that after he was released from detention in 2017, he struggled to adapt. There were other young Vietnamese men in the safe house, but he sat in his room in a state of high anxiety thinking that someone was going to come and take him back to the detention centre.


Rachel Thomas, a clinical psychologist specialising in complex mental health and trauma, was hired by Duncan Lewis to write a psychological assessment of Minh after he was released. Thomas has done similar assessments of scores of other trafficking victims, but vividly remembers her meetings with Minh at his safe house. She recalls him looking “small and slight and extremely young, much younger than his actual age, and very fragile”.


In her report, she writes: “His sleep is currently limited to about four hours a night. He is woken by nightmares about being attacked and chased. He is kept awake by intrusive memories of his experiences at the hands of his traffickers. They have become more intense and frequent since his detention, particuarly following the sexual abuse … during his stay at Morton Hall.”

During his assessment, Minh disclosed something he had also told Dr Frank Arnold: that after his failed escape from the cannabis house in Chesterfield, his traffickers had held him down, made a cut on his genitals and told him they had inserted a tracking device into his body. Thomas said that even if there was no tracking device, the psychological impact on the 16-year-old Minh had been immense: “Even when he was in a safe place and had been recognised as a victim, he continued to believe that the traffickers were in ultimate control over his life,” she says.


After Minh’s release from detention, Aydeed and the team at Duncan Lewis launched legal proceedings against both the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice for failing to protect Minh, and for failing to launch an investigation after the attempted rape at Morton Hall. Over the next 18 months, the team also pursued a separate judicial review against the Home Office. They argued that Minh was a victim of child trafficking, who had been systematically failed by the Home Office, which had criminalised and illegally detained their client over a four-year period, and then attempted to deport him back to Vietnam before a criminal investigation into his human trafficking had been concluded.


For Minh, this battle for justice has been crucial in his own slow journey to some kind of recovery. “After the incident at Morton Hall it was like I had split into two different people,” he says. “I don’t know who I am any more, but maybe there is a way to build a life for myself again. I used to talk a lot and laugh, and wanted to meet people and see things, but now I don’t feel like that any more. When I look in the mirror, I see someone else there, someone I don’t recognise, who is much older and who has been through awful things.”

Sometimes, he says, he finds it strange to walk the streets and be surrounded by people who have no idea what he has survived. “Since I left detention I have always felt scared, especially when I thought about how I was trying to fight the police and the Home Office,” he says. “It would be easier to just leave it alone. But I have to try my best to get justice, to take back my life. I have to trust that things can be better.”

In June 2018, Minh won his judicial review against the Home Office. The government accepts that it illegally detained him in prison, and then under immigration powers in Glen Parva and in immigration detention. When Minh heard the news, he felt the pressure lift for the first time in months. “When they admitted that what had happened to me was wrong and I had been treated unjustly, I think I really understood for the first time none of this was my fault.”


Then, on a cold morning in November last year, Minh received an ecstatic message from the team at Duncan Lewis. A court of appeal had quashed his conviction for cannabis cultivation. He was no longer a criminal in the eyes of the UK authorities. For Minh, this felt like a rebirth. Ever since he had been released from immigration detention, he had been trying to relearn how to live in the world, just going about the normal business of cooking food and washing clothes and getting through the day. “But all the time, the fact that I was a criminal was there, it felt like a black mark on my forehead,” he says. “Now I have a bit of peace, now I can learn how to be a good person in this society, and maybe be of help, be a useful person.” Last month, Minh won £85,000 in compensation from the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice for the illegal detention and failure to protect him in immigration detention.


When asked to comment on his case, a government spokesperson said: “The welfare of vulnerable detainees is of the utmost importance, and we are carefully considering the implications of this case. We have made significant improvements in recent years, but … we are committed to going further and faster in exploring alternatives to detention, increasing transparency around it and improving the support available for vulnerable detainees.”


The final battle to get Minh leave to remain in the UK will be concluded in the next few months. He is convinced that if he is sent back to Vietnam there is a high chance he will be trafficked again, or killed by the same gang who forced him into debt bondage as a teenager. It is far from certain that Minh will be allowed to stay. Despite talking itself up as a global leader in the fight against modern slavery, the Home Office only grants 12% of trafficking victims leave to remain. A recent investigation by Buzzfeed UK found that the government approved only 16 out of 326 applications made by children officially recognised as victims of slavery who had requested discretionary leave to remain between April 2017 and the end of 2018.


But Aydeed remains positive, and Minh wants to stay and try and build a life for himself in the UK, despite everything that has happened to him here. For the first time, he is allowing himself to think about what he would like to do with the rest of his life. He is only 22.

“All I can do is try to hope,” he says. “My life didn’t begin well, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be like this for me any more.”




Diageo keeps an eye on cannabis as gin and tequila sales soar



Diageo keeps an eye on cannabis as gin and tequila sales soar


Drinks firm says it will wait and see before investing in marijuana after its profits rise




A bartender takes a bottle of Johnnie Walker whisky


Diageo, the drinks firm behind Guinness and Johnnie Walker whisky, said it was keeping one eye on the North American cannabis industry, as soaring gin and tequila sales helped boost profits.

Pretax profit rose by 12% to £4.2bn on the back of sales that were nearly 6% higher at £12.9bn, triggering plans to return £4.5bn to shareholders over the next three years.

By far the best-performing spirits in Diageo’s stable were gin and tequila. Led by its Tanqueray brand, gin sales were up 23%, while tequila grew by 37% thanks to the surging popularity of its Don Julio label.

A whisky tie-up with Game of Thrones that spawned White Walker by Johnnie Walker helped boost scotch, which accounts for a quarter of the company’s net sales, by 6%.


Diageo has so far shied away from the strategy taken by rivals such as the US drinks firm Constellation Brands, which bought 40% of the world’s largest cannabis firm Canopy Growth to secure a foothold in the fast-growing industry.

But Diageo’s chief executive, Ivan Menezes, said the company could not rule out following suit, depending on how the market develops for cannabis, which is legal in Canada and some US states.

“On cannabis we’re just tracking it, it’s at a very early stage,” said Menezes, who has been at Diageo since 1997. “We’re looking at the sector, it’s nascent and we just want to understand the consumer behaviour.”

He added that Diageo’s business did not appear to have been affected by the legalisation of cannabis in parts of the US, tallying with research suggesting drinkers have not switched in large numbers to smoking marijuana.

Menezes also said Diageo had no need to follow in the footsteps of multinational beer companies by shelling out for a craft brewery.


“The ultimate craft brewer is Guinness,” he said.

Diageo has spent £150m on a new Johnnie Walker visitor centre in Edinburgh, which it plans to open in time for the scotch brand’s 200th anniversary next year.

But the plans have been slightly overshadowed by the threat of strike action across its Scottish operations. The company said it was still talking to unions, who rejected a fresh pay offer this week, and hoped to be able to reach a deal.



Three arrests as cannabis factory found in Clyro



Three arrests as cannabis factory found in Clyro


BBC News


Cannabis seized


Three men have been arrested after police uncovered a “large-scale” cannabis factory in Powys.

Two men from Birmingham, aged 45 and 39, and a 36-year-old from Wolverhampton were held on suspicion of producing the class B drug.

A warrant was carried out at a house in Clyro on Wednesday and Dyfed-Powys Police seized cannabis with a street value of £1m.

Sgt Ciaran Ryan described it as a “significant result”.

“A large amount of cannabis has been prevented from being sold on our streets,” he said.



Cannabis seized


Cannabis seized


Cannabis seized





‘He reduced his crop to cannabis oil’ – Pensioner grew drugs to help ease Parkinson’s Disease symptoms



‘He reduced his crop to cannabis oil’ – Pensioner grew drugs to help ease Parkinson’s Disease symptoms


Police found 42 plants in the garage of Lee Boland’s Bucknall home


Parkinson’s Disease sufferer Lee Boland grew cannabis to help with his illness.

Police searched the pensioner’s Bucknall home after receiving information cannabis was being grown at the address.

Officers discovered two tents in the garage which contained a total of 42 plants with a potential yield of 2.2 kilograms of cannabis.

Now 67-year-old Boland has been handed a 12-month community order at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court.




Prosecutor Peter Gilmour said police attended the defendant’s home in Cairn Close, Bucknall, on September 4 last year after receiving information cannabis was being grown there.

Mr Gilmour said: “He let them in and immediately accepted he was growing cannabis in the garage.

“Officers found two tents which contained 42 plants between them. A drug expert estimated the plants could have produced a yield of 2.2 kilograms of cannabis.

“There was a sophisticated operation with lights, transformers and tents.”


The defendant made full admissions in his police interview, telling officers he was growing the cannabis for his own use to treat the symptoms of his illness.

Boland, of Cairn Close, pleaded guilty to being concerned in the production of cannabis on September 4 and abstracting electricity between August 27 and September 5. His plea was on a basis he was growing the cannabis for his own use because it assisted with the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease which he suffers from.

As part of the community order, Boland must complete a 15-day rehabilitation activity requirement and a three month electronically-monitored curfew from 10pm to 5pm.


Judge Paul Glenn, mitigating, said: “This was a relatively small growing operation in two tents in your garage powered by a bypassed electricity meter. The potential value of the 42 plants seized was significant.

“In interview you explained you suffered with Parkinson’s Disease. You reduced your crop to cannabis oil and you did not intend to supply others.

“I believe you are remorseful. You claim you are no longer using cannabis.”


Boland was ordered to pay £340 costs and £615.85 compensation for the electricty.



Gillingham man arrested after cannabis farm discovered in St Andrews Road


A man has been arrested after a cannabis farm was discovered in a home.

The Class B drug was found being grown in the living room of the property and upstairs in two bedrooms.

Police were alerted to the crop in St Andrews Road, Gillingham after a utility company reported an electricity meter had been tampered with.

Officers raided the property yesterday morning and found around 100 marijuana plants.

A 31-year-old man from Gillingham was arrested on suspicion of cultivating cannabis and remains in custody as enquiries continue.

District Commander for Medway, Chief Inspector Rachel Harris, said: “Cannabis is an illegal drug and those who choose to cultivate it are making a deliberate choice to break the law.

“Although I cannot talk about the specifics of this case, in general large cultivations are also often managed by organised crime groups that exploit vulnerable people by making them grow the cultivations in servitude.

“Abstracting electricity also needlessly presents a significant fire risk to neighbouring properties and such activity cannot be tolerated.

“I would encourage anyone who has suspicions that an address is being used to cultivate cannabis to report it to us via our website or by calling 101.”

One resident of St Andrews Road told the Messenger: “There were about 13 police officers, here yesterday.
“When you looked inside the house it was absolutely crammed full of the stuff.

“They were pretty big plants too.

“The police filled two vans with all the plants and then had to put more in police cars because they ran out of room.

“We did have our suspicions and thought there was criminal activity in there.

“The windows were all blacked out and you never saw anyone going in and out.

“We used to see food getting passed in to the house.”








UK physician to teach over 300 Kiwi doctors the difference between ‘street’ and medical cannabis. But there’s a problem



UK physician to teach over 300 Kiwi doctors the difference between ‘street’ and medical cannabis. But there’s a problem


Some of his information seems to be a little questionable


"I've been able to reassure people that medicinal cannabis has the non-psychoactive one, mainly CBD, which doesn't have the mental health, and medicine cannabis is rather different therefore from street cannabis," Barnes told Newstalk ZB.


A UK physician will be teaching over 300 Kiwi medical doctors the difference between “street” and medical cannabis in a new set of training classes. The problem? Some of his information seems to be a little questionable.


Dr. Michael Barnes, director of the Academy of Medicinal Cannabis in London, England, has been tapped to teach the New Zealand classes. He says he’s encouraged by the fact that attendance is high (figuratively), as cannabis is an oft-neglected subject in formal medical education. The courses will discuss the social impact of cannabis and its use, its pharmacology, and the basics of prescribing the drug to treat patients.

While Dr. Barnes’ intent is noble, his research about cannabinoids leaves much to be desired.

“I’ve been able to reassure people that medicinal cannabis has the non-psychoactive one, mainly CBD, which doesn’t have the mental health, and medicine cannabis is rather different therefore from street cannabis,” Barnes told Newstalk ZB.

He also claimed that the mental health effects in medical cannabis are minimal compared to those of “street” cannabis.


Dr. Barnes’ claims are highly questionable. For starters, “street” and medical cannabis are the same drug, and derived from the same plant. Although their applications can be different, medical and recreational users may in some cases seek out different qualities in their cannabis. Cultivars vary greatly, but the same cultivar can be used for medical and recreational purposes.

While cannabidiol (CBD) is non-intoxicating, it is indeed psychoactive, and can interact with many medications.

Moreover, there is plenty of evidence indicating that cultivars containing a higher concentration of THC, the intoxicating component in cannabis, can be an effective medicine for managing pain caused by multiple sclerosis, nausea from chemotherapy, and numerous other health issues.

Although more research is needed in relation to cannabis and mental illness, whether or not cannabis has been prescribed or purchased has little bearing on how it affects a patient’s mental health.


Dr. Barnes has also been criticized for a potential conflict of interest, in that major medical cannabis company Helius Therapeutics, who stand to profit from the prescription of the drug.

Dr. Barnes says that no conflict exists and points out that his visit was endorsed by NZ College of General Practitioners. “I do a lot of this teaching in the UK,” Barnes told TVNZ1’s Breakfast program. “They’ve paid for the airfare. I don’t get any other fee, so I hope what I say will be entirely objective and reasonable and balanced.”

The courses are still a step forward for notoriously drug-conservative New Zealand, where weed-substitute synthetic cannabinoids have caused several deaths and there is little information available to physicians with regards to prescribing.




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