HUSBAND and wife Katarzyna and Clive Dryden-Chouen have walked free from court after growing vast quantities of cannabis which they claimed they would burn as a spiritual offering to a Hindu god.
The couple not only had numerous plants in various states of growth, but kilograms of harvested crop when police raided their Littledean home last year.
Their diaries also contained entries which police thought indicated they had been supplying the drugs to other people.
But after hearing their two young children, one of whom has learning difficulties, would suffer if they were jailed, the judge imposed suspended sentences.
Clive, 60, and Katarzyna, 47, had been charged with possession with intent so supply and money laundering relating to a quarter of a million pounds which had passed through her hands.
But following a three-week trial at Gloucester Crown Court, a jury cleared them of those charges, leaving just the production offence, which they had admitted. Police raided their home in Church Street in August last year and found 15 established and 41 juvenile plants as well as kilograms of plant matter, including flowering heads. They also recovered the paraphernalia for growing the plants, more than £12,000 in cash and the diaries which also detailed the cultivation of the crop.
In the lounge was a shrine to the Hindu god of Shiva, who has a close association with hemp.
Fiona Elder, for Katarzyna, said her client was using a lot of valium at the time and went too far in her religious devotion.
She said: “She took a course in this particular part of her life when she became obsessed, I think for want of a better word, with cannabis and its properties and the spiritual side of it.
“Your Honour will also know at the same time it was revealed in evidence, and the subject of one of the charges on the indictment, the increasing use of valium.
“She seemed to become what she eventually said in evidence, dependant upon that. It had an impact on the way she behaved in that period.”
She said they had two young sons, who social services said were well brought up, but the impact on them of her being jailed would be immense.Robert Duval, for Clive, said: “He has come within an iota of destroying his own family. The stability of it and the financial future of it.”
He said the money recovered had been signed over to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and they would be pursued for any other unpaid tax. Judge Alistair McGrigor said: “The jury found you not to have been supplying cannabis to others throughout those years and not to have made any criminal property.
“This was effectively an excessive self production for your own consumption.”
Giving them credit for their plea he said: “There is a matter that goes against your credit: you have two young children at home that rely on you.
“You had filled the house with the accoutrements of cannabis production and that along with your behaviour would have had an affect on your children.
“If you were to go into prison this would cause further considerable hardship to your children. That is why this is going to be dealt with by way of a suspended sentence.”He imposed 10-month jail terms suspended for two years and ordered they each do 120 hours of community service.