Drug grower who was spared jail in lieu of a £25,000 fine is jailed - after only paying back £320 in 14 months

Frederick Gray

Frederick Gray - Credit: Archant

A man has been jailed after paying back just £320 of a £25,000 court order for drugs profits.

Frederick Gray, 59, had initially been spared prison after police discovered 70 cannabis plants being grown under heat lamps and horticultural equipment at an address in Kempe Road, West Lynn, Norfolk, in June 2012.

He was given a suspended sentence in July 2013 but then ordered to pay back £25,200 under the Proceeds of Crime Act in February, last year.

However, at a confiscation enforcement hearing at Dover Magistrates’ Court on April 24, it was established Gray, of Sculthorpe Avenue, West Lynn, had only paid back £320. He was jailed for 13 months.

Detective Constable Nick Bentley said: “The activation of the default sentence in this case serves as a message to others in similar situations that the Proceeds of Crime Act is a robust piece of legislation and individuals shall be pursued through enforcement if full payment is not made.

“The outstanding debt will remain with Gray after his time in prison but should he manage to pay the confiscation order in full he would be eligible for release from custody and would not have to serve the full term.”

Gray is the latest to be jailed after action by regional crime squad - the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) which was created in 2010.

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Since being formed it has seized drugs worth £44.5m, restrained assets worth £37.9m and secured confiscation orders worth a total of £25m.

The dedicated unit, led by Bedfordshire Police Chief Constable Colette Paul, comprises staff from Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk police forces and focuses on tackling organised crime groups across the region.

The ERSOU Asset Confiscation Enforcement (ACE) team has supported attempts to recover Gray’s criminal gains and work closely with the confiscation enforcement court at Dover.

The ACE team has so far helped recover £470,485 since it was launched in October.

The Regional Economic Crime Unit, responsible for recovering assets for forces across the region, seized a total of £143,350 cash on behalf of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire in the first three months of 2015.

Detective Superintendent Mark Birch, head of ERSOU, said: “The unit not only gathers evidence to arrest these people and put them before the courts, but also hits them where it hurts the most – in the pocket.

“We have specialist teams focusing on identifying and dismantling organised crime groups which are either present in the region or come here with the sole intention of committing crime. Many will be trafficking drugs, but they are multi-offending groups often exploiting the vulnerable and the young as a side product to their drug trafficking.”