Pubdate: Sun, 02 Oct 2005
Source: Sunday Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: Telegraph Group Limited 2005
Author: Andrew Alderson, Chief Reporter
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)


The Discovery was made among tall trees and thick bracken on a remote
cliff top near a Cornish fishing village.

The terrain was so inaccessible that officers had to crawl to reach
the scores of cannabis plants being grown illegally in the mild, moist

The audacious crime could well have been inspired by the film Saving
Grace. In the hit comedy, Brenda Blethyn plays a Cornish widow growing
marijuana on her coastal estate in order to pay off her late husband's

Detectives in Penzance, however, are this weekend trying to trace real
criminals, who have been illegally cultivating hundreds of thousands
of pounds worth of the drug close to National Trust land.

The crops were discovered by chance when an officer in a police
surveillance helicopter spotted what he thought were marijuana plants
and filmed what he could see. He notified colleagues in Penzance who
began making inquiries.

Based on the filmed evidence from the helicopter and information from
informants, police eventually seized 60 plants at three sites, worth a
total of UKP25,000. Officers discovered, however, that most of the
crop had already been harvested and sold.

Police have been astounded by the audacity of the growers and fear
this may have been going on undetected for years. Cannabis was
recently downgraded from a Class B to a Class C drug, but those
cultivating it still face up to five years in jail.

Officers have not yet made any arrests, but Acting Sergeant Tom
Patrick, who is leading the police operation, is confident that the
net is closing on those responsible for cultivating the crops on
common land.

Mr Patrick said: "We have found cannabis plants at three sites, but at
the largest the main crop had been harvested about a week earlier. We
hope to make arrests soon."

Most plants were found off a coastal footpath between Mousehole and
Lamorna Cove. Smaller amounts of the drug were found at two sites at
Raginnis Hill above Mousehole.

"The main crop off the footpath was very well camouflaged," said Mr
Patrick. "The cannabis could really only be seen from the air. To get
to the plants and drag them out, we were on our hands and knees in
thick bracken and woodland. For the general public out walking, this
area would have been totally impenetrable.

"We now know there are four or five other areas where cannabis is
being grown and that the crops would have been worth hundreds of
thousands of pounds."

In Saving Grace, which was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic in
2000, villagers turn a blind eye to the illegal exploits of Grace
Trevethyn, a keen gardener, because they feel sorry for her because
she is saddled with debts. Those providing a market for her illegal
activities include a local pot-smoking doctor played by Martin Clunes.

Penzance police, however, hope local residents will "shop" those
responsible for growing the marijuana. Mr Patrick said: "The situation
is reminiscent of Saving Grace but we don't want to trivialise this
crime. Cannabis is an illegal and dangerous drug and it does have a
bad effect on local communities. If we can show that people have made
a certain amount of money from cultivating cannabis, we are entitled
to seize their assets."

Malcolm Pilcher, a Conservative councillor for Penzance South, the
ward that includes Mousehole, said: "The police need to come down hard
on whoever is responsible." 
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