A man has been handed a custodial sentence after jumping from a first-floor window of a cannabis factory and breaking his leg when police raided the property.
Altjohn Cobo jumped from the window as police burst into the property on Queen Street, Peterhead, with officers finding him lying injured on the pavement below.
The 20-year-old told officers he jumped from the four-bedroom flat, which was packed with more than 100 cannabis plants worth up to £141,000 because his boss told him to.
Cobo, who is not in the country legally, told officers he’d been promised building work in the UK and had been brought to the address in the back of a van.
After previously pleading guilty to being concerned in the supply of cannabis, Cobo appeared back in the dock at Aberdeen Sheriff Court to be sentenced.
Defence agent Charlie Benzies told the court: “What he has told me is that he was short of money while he was in Albania. He approached people who he thought would help with his situation.
“He was quite clear that they did not approach him first.
“He was told that they could get him work in construction in the UK. He was told that to be taken to the UK would cost £20,000.
“He was told that he would be able to pay that back within 15 months if he worked in construction.
“He, therefore, went into a lorry and hid in the lorry whilst the lorry went through border control.
“The people who he contacted, they kept his passport.
“When he arrived in the UK he was taken up to Peterhead.
“He says he was put in a van. He had no idea where he was going. He says the van only stopped on two or three occasions to get petrol.
“I asked Mr Cobo if he was concerned about what was going on and whether or not he thought he might have been able to run away and contact the police.
“He said he was too scared of the people he was with to do that.
“He was well aware, when he went into the house and saw the cannabis plants, that he was getting involved in something which he should not.
“However his fear of the people that took him there was too great for him to do anything about it.
“When the police came into the building he jumped out of a window and broke his leg. He appears to have made a full recovery.”
Mr Benzies added the whole experience had been “traumatic” for his client.
Sheriff William Summers asked: “On the basis he is in this country illegally, is the likelihood that on the expiry of his sentence he will be moved to a detention centre somewhere?”
Mr Benzies said his client did not know.
Sheriff Summers’ comments
Addressing Cobo, a prisoner of HMYOI Polmont, directly, Sheriff Summers said: “You pled guilty to being concerned in the supply of controlled drugs.
“You were running a sophisticated cannabis farm operation.
“It involved a large number of plants and a potentially high value of drugs.
“The circumstances in which you came to be involved in this offence are extraordinary and it’s quite clear that there are very significant mitigating factors.
“It’s equally clear that there is no alternative other than for the court to impose a custodial sentence.
“But in the extraordinary circumstances of your case, I will impose a sentence that is far less than what would otherwise have been imposed.”
He ordered Cobo to serve 10 months in custody.
The crown narrative
Fiscal depute Christy Ward previously told Aberdeen Sheriff Court: “The accused is an Albanian national with no apparent links to Peterhead.
“The locus is a four-bedroom flat located above a shop on the corner of St Peter Street and Queen Street in Peterhead.
“In October police received intelligence regarding a cannabis cultivation at the locus.
“Evidential search warrants were craved and granted.
“The warrants were executed on October 18. As entry was being forced, a loud bang was heard by police.
“Members of the public directed officers towards St Peter Street and on attendance there officers saw a window at the locus was open and the accused was on the ground below.
“On seeing the officers, the accused made to run away but was restrained by the police.
“As they were waiting for an ambulance for the accused, who had sustained injuries from jumping from the window, he said that he was told to jump from the window by his boss, but provided no further details.
“A forensic search of the locus found significant cannabis cultivation and growing areas were found within all four bedrooms, the living room and the hallway between the third and fourth bedroom.”
Ms Ward said extractor fans were directed to expel air through open windows on the roof.
She said: “In total, 175 plants and 30 sapling plants were found.
“The accused made no comment in an interview, but did advise police he was promised building work in the UK and that he was transported to the locus in the back of a van by unknown persons.”
The 175 plants were each valued at between £200 and £810, giving a maximum potential value of between £35,000 and £141,750.
Ms Ward explained the values were based on the plants being female, reaching maturity, and producing between one and three ounces of cannabis of sufficient quality to be sold in small deals.