A SOUTHAMPTON man pocketed the rent from his leased-out flat when he knew it was being used as a cannabis growing factory.

Police discovered two rooms in the ground-floor property in Gordon Avenue had been given over to the operation which had a potential yield of between £8,000 and £10,000 a year.

Justin Griffiths, 31, of Atherley Road, admitted allowing the premises to be used for the drug’s production but was spared an immediate prison sentence.

Justin Hugheston-Roberts, mitigating at the city crown court, said Griffiths had intended to move into the property with his girlfriend but after their relationship ended, he returned to live with his mother because his income could not meet the mortgage and other outgoings, and he rented it out.

“He turned his back on what he suspected was going on because he was getting £550 a month in rent.

"He wasn’t involved in setting the operation up and he wasn’t getting any cut from the production.”

Imposing a 16-month suspended sentence coupled with a 200-hour community work order, Recorder Andrew Maitland told Griffiths he had closed his eyes to the obvious.

Said to have 18 previous convictions for 59 offences including four for possessing cannabis, he was also told to pay £1,600 in terms of a fine, costs and a surcharge.