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A family moved from to run ‘industrial scale’ drugs operation worth £3.5m

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A FAMILY living in west Wales have been busted by Police for running a ‘huge’ cannabis operation, estimated to be worth £3.5m.

Linda McCann, her husband Edward and son Daniel moved from Hampshire to a Carmarthenshire house with a large barn which had been carefully chosen as a suitable base for their business.There, the family set and ran an ‘industrial scale’ drugs operation not only producing huge quantities of herbal cannabis but also cannabis oil and cannabis edibles such as cannabis-infused chocolate. To help with the business they recruited local men, Jack Whittock and Justin Liles.By the time police raised the property, the McCanns had been running their cannabis operation for some five years, and the prosecution believe it may have been worth up to £3.5m over that time.

Police found an ‘extremely well-organised and sophisticated cannabis manufacturing operation

All five defendants had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to produce cannabis and conspiracy to supply cannabis and to acquiring criminal property – namely cash – when Linda McCann, Whittock and Liles appeared in the dock for sentencing. Edward and Daniel McCann are yet to be sentenced.

The court heard that on October 23, 2020, police executed a search warrant at an isolated property in the village of Cwmbach, near Whitland in Carmarthenshire. Ian Wright said officers forced entry to a large outbuilding or bar next to a detached house on the plot and were met by an “overwhelming smell of cannabis” – inside they found an “extremely well-organised and sophisticated cannabis manufacturing operation”.

The ground floor of the barn had been divided into six growing rooms equipped with lights and extractor fans, and a main working area with a commercial-size oven, and a pressure-device for extracting oil from plants. Some 202 plants of various stages of maturity from saplings in propagators to a large “mother” plant from which cuttings were taken were recovered. The upstairs of the barn was being used as a production area with a table and chairs, tools including secateurs, and clothes-horses on which harvested cannabis plants were being dried.

The barrister told the court police also found a machine for sealing tin cans – tinned cannabis, he said, was an “emerging trend” in the UK as it kept the drug fresher and increased its longevity. The court heard the power supply to the barn had been bypassed, and an armoured trenched cable ran from the building directly to a nearby electricity pole.

The three defendants in the dock were all arrested in the barn.

The court heard that in addition the plants the themselves – which had a potential value of up to £460,000 – officers also recovered around 80kg of “cannabis product” which was worth up to £1.5million. Meanwhile a search of the house next to the barn uncovered £10,000 cash divided into individual £1,000 bundles in the front bedroom, and a cannabis-infused chocolate bar on the kitchen table.

Mr Wright said the McCann family had spent some time meticulously searching for a suitable property from which to run the business, and that the Carmarthenshire small-holding suited their needs perfectly. The property was bought in July 2014 by Daniel McCann £385,000. The prosecutor said over the five-year life of the conspiracy, the cannabis produced at the Carmarthenshire property may have had a street value of up to almost £3.5m.While the McCanns ran the business, Whittock and Liles were involved in harvesting preparing the crop and in its distribution, and were trusted by the family. Read about a dealer running a ‘cannabis shop’ from his home who was rumbled after a postie sniffed out something was going on.

The court heard the power supply to the barn had been bypassed

The court heard details of extensive text messaging between the conspirators in which they discussed the workings of the operation, the amounts of drugs being supplied and the money being earned, and the apparent high quality of the product. The court also heard about an expensive AMG Mercedes car which Linda McCann bought, and about the university tuition fees for the McCanns’ daughter Samantha being paid for by “the barn”.

Linda McCann, aged 60, of Cwmbach, Whitland, Carmarthenshire; Justin James David Liles, aged 32, of St Clears, Carmarthenshire; and Jack Whittock, aged 29, of Llanteg, Narberth, Pembrokeshire had all previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to produce and supply cannabis between 2015 and 2020, and to acquiring criminal property – namely cash – on the fifth day of their trial in April this year when they returned to the dock for sentencing.

McCann has no previous convictions; Liles has previous convictions for possession of Class A, B and C drugs, and for possession of ecstasy and ketamine with intent to supply; and Whittock has a previous conviction for making threats to kill.

This offence occurred after this arrest for the cannabis farm matter and saw him making a series of lurid threats against the life of an officer in the case – Whittock was sentenced to two years in prison for that offence, and has already served the custodial element of that sentence. This conviction could not be reported at the time due to the pending cannabis case.

Counsel for McCann told the court that the origins of the operations lay on Hampshire, and in a “different level of production” conceived in an effort to alleviate some of the distressing side-effects of Edward McCann’s chemotherapy treatment for leukaemia.

He described his client as a “loyal and devoted wife and mother” for over 40 years

.Judge Geraint Walters said he was wholly satisfied that the Carmarthenshire property had been bought by the McCanns with a view to using it as base for a sophisticated cannabis factory. He said it had been carefully chosen and then fitted out with equipment for an “industrial scale” cannabis production operation. He described McCann as an “enthusiastic participant” in an operation which he said was a “hugely profitable and successful business”.

The judge said the public was rightly fed up with people operating cannabis farms in the communities and then selling the drug, and he said the courts had a duty make it clear to those starting up such operations that the default sentence was almost always immediate custody.

With a five per cent discount for their guilty pleas McCann was sentenced to six years and seven months in prison, Whittock to two years and 10 months, and Liles to 22 months. The defendants will serve up to half those periods in custody before being released on licence to serve the remainder in the community.Edward and Daniel McCann are due to be sentenced next month, not only for the Carmarthenshire offending but for an earlier cannabis conspiracy in Hampshire.

The prosecution is now conducting an financial investigation into the defendants using Proceeds of Crime Act powers.

The McCanns’ daughter, Samantha, had stood trial with the other defendants in April but when the guilty pleas were entered by the five co-accused the prosecution offered no evidence against her, and the jury was directed to return not guilty verdicts as far as she was concerned.

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Carmarthenshire County Council cracks down on fly-tippers

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council handed out a total of £4,350 in fixed penalty notices (FPN’s) related to fly-tipping last month.

17 FPN’s were issued as a result of CCTV footage at Carway recycling facility, resulting in a total of £2,675 in fines being given.

This includes:

  • £125 FPN issued to a Carway female for depositing a bag
  • £400 FPN issued to a Carway male for depositing black refuse bags, blue recycling bags and paint pots at the site on several different occasions
  •  £125 FPN issued to a Carway female for depositing a bag
  • £400 FPN issued to a Carway resident for depositing blue recycling bags and other items

Fixed penalty notices issued at other locations in the county include:

  • £125 FPN issued to a female for depositing a black refuse bag at Red Roses recycling facility.
  • £300 FPN issued to a Gorseinon resident who failed in his duty of care when he had his household waste removed by a person not registered as a waste carrier.
  • £400 FPN issued to a Llanelli resident for fly tipping after CCTV footage provided by a member of the public led to his identification.  The male was seen driving along the rear lane between James Street and Swansea Road in Llanelli where he was seen throwing a blue recycling bag from his moving vehicle into the lane.
  • £300 FPN issued to a Llanelli resident who failed in their duty of care after their waste was found in an overgrown verge/hedgerow in the rear lane of their street.  The resident claimed to have paid a male to dispose of their waste but failed to provide their details.
  • £300 FPN issued to a Llanelli business for failing to produce waste transfer notes after waste produced by the business was found illegally deposited in Swiss Valley, Llanelli. The business was issued a notice requiring them to produce waste transfer notes within 7 days which they failed to do. The business was also issued a legal notice to ensure any waste from the business is disposed of correctly in the future.  

Cllr Aled Vaughan Owen, Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Decarbonisation and Sustainability said: “The introduction of CCTV at Carway recycling facility has enabled us to clamp down on the unlawful dumping of waste at this site. I hope this serves as a reminder that all waste deposited at our recycling facilities must be placed in the correct container, with all bags and boxed removed from the site.”

“The Council’s CCTV strategy will be extended to other recycling facilities in the county in the coming months to help combat instances of fly tipping in these areas.”

“I would urge anyone who needs to dispose of waste to do so responsibly. We have recycling centres at Nantycaws (Carmarthen), Trostre (Llanelli), Wernddu (Ammanford) and Whitland as well as a bulky waste collection service and weekly household waste collections. When paying for rubbish to be disposed of, please use a licensed business and ensure that you are given a valid waste transfer note when waste is collected.”

For more information on disposing of waste please visit Carmarthenshire.gov.wales/recycling

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Wales stands firm in support for Ukraine

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IN THE latest update on the Ukraine crisis, Wales’s Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt thanked all those households across Wales who have come forward to offer their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the War and encouraged more households to provide this vital support.

APPEAL FOR MORE HOST FAMILIES

The Minister for Social Justice said: “I’m delighted to say that over 5,650 people from Ukraine, sponsored by the Welsh Government and Welsh households, have already arrived in the UK.
“More than 8,200 visas have now been issued to people from Ukraine who have sponsors in Wales, so we expect the number of arrivals to continue to grow in the coming weeks.
“Thousands of Welsh households sponsored Ukrainians to arrive in Wales and committed to hosting them for at least six months.
“As we move into the autumn, we approach the end of that initial period.
“We hope hosts and Ukrainians will agree to extend many of those placements, but we need additional hosts to support those who cannot continue living where they are.
“To ensure a warm welcome to Wales, I’m inviting households across Wales to come forward and open their homes to welcome those seeking sanctuary.
“We’re immensely thankful to all those across Wales acting as hosts to Ukrainians, but more households must come forward.
“I completely understand that there are those who want to help but may not have the resources to do so, given the circumstances we’re all facing with the cost-of-living crisis.”

WALES WILL STEP UP TO THE PLATE

Jane Hutt continued: “What we all know, and has been proven countless times, is that the people of Wales are one of the most generous across the globe, and I’m sure we will step up to the plate once again.
“The idea of hosting can be daunting. That’s why we have funded Housing Justice Cymru to provide a Host Support service which includes expert and reliable information, training, advice, and guidance for people hosting, or those considering hosting, Ukrainians in Wales.
“More information on sessions and training can be found on the Housing Justice Cymru website. We also publish regularly updated guidance for hosts and sponsors at gov. wales/ukraine.
“We still need many more households to consider whether they could provide a home for those in need. This would normally be a commitment to hosting for 6 to 12 months.
“If anyone is considering this, we encourage them to register their interest at gov.wales/offerhome, and to attend one of the ‘Introduction to Hosting’ sessions, facilitated by Housing Justice Cymru. You won’t need to continue the process if you decide it is not for you.
“We have also partnered with Airbnb.org to ensure very short-term emergency placements can be provided to prevent homelessness.
“If you cannot host for more than 6 months but you could offer your property for up to 30 days at a time, you may also be able to contribute. Visit gov.wales/offerhome and follow the link to the Airbnb.org platform.”
Finally, the Minister stated: “We will continue to communicate with those who host Ukrainians, with updated guidance and information to support the valuable role you are undertaking.
“To all those that are already hosting and to those that are considering hosting, thank you, we owe you all a huge debt of gratitude.”

WESTMINSTER MUST BACK HOSTS
DURING COST-OF-LIVING CRISIS

Conservative MS Mark Isherwood raised how the cost-of-living crisis affects Ukrainian refugees.
Where families had taken in those fleeing Russian aggression, he noted a risk of sponsorships not continuing beyond six months because the hosts cannot afford the rise in fuel costs.
He asked the Minister what discussions she’d had with the UK Government about increasing the £350 contribution to households who’d taken in Ukrainian refugees.
The Minister agreed with Mark Isherwood that ending a specific ministerial post dealing with refugees was regrettable.
She noted a lack of information from the UK Government over the summer months and since Liz Truss replaced Boris Johnson as head of the Conservative Government.
Ms Hutt said: “We asked for an increase at least to £500, or up again, doubling to £700 per month. An urgent decision is needed regarding this as they reach the end of their six-month period.
“That period is underway, so we’re writing to all hosts to see if they will continue.”

UK GOVERNMENT URGED
TO PICK UP THE PHONE

The Minister thanked Mark Isherwood for introducing her to a charity offering support in North Wales, Link, and hoped that he and his colleagues would bring pressure to bear on their Westminster colleagues to ensure those in need from Ukraine and those in Wales helping them received support.
She added: “I look forward perhaps that we might have some telephone calls from the Prime Minister and other Ministers to us in Government. We must engage with them and follow this through.
“There is a huge job of work to be done here. We’re taking responsibility in the way I’ve outlined, funding our welcome centres and paying thank-you payments to hosts if they support a family who initially arrived in Wales under the Ukraine family scheme.
“That’s not happening in England. The commitment that we’re making is considerable.
“I hope everyone will join us today, saying that we need to press for those answers in terms of financial support.”

THE THREAT OF HOMELESSNESS

Sioned Williams of Plaid Cymru raised the spectre of Ukrainian refugees becoming homeless in Wales due to a lack of financial support and the end of existing hosting and housing placements.
The Minister praised the work of local authorities across Wales supporting refugees.
She said: “There are very imaginative programmes. That includes a whole range of issues like repurposing empty buildings.
“Local authorities are really coming up with a whole range of ways in which we can support people, perhaps, from a welcome centre, or a host family, into that intermediate accommodation, and then on to other longer-term accommodation.”
Pembrokeshire currently houses around 200 Ukrainian refugees, with the demand for assistance outstripping the availability of suitable accommodation.

NOT ONE PENNY FROM WESTMINSTER
TO SUPPORT FAMILIES FLEEING WAR

Responding to a question from Mabon ap Gwynfor about problems housing family groups, Jane Hutt hit out at the lack of support from the UK Government and how it’s u-turned on a commitment to help families.
“The UK Government has never given a penny towards the family scheme.
“The former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in one of his last PMQs, actually said that he thought the Ukraine family scheme should get the same funding and support as the Homes for Ukraine scheme. It’s never happened.
“We have provided thank-you payments to people who are hosting Ukrainian families. It’s all Welsh Government money; it’s not UK Government, because they don’t provide a penny. And also, the British Red Cross—£246,000—who are actually supporting Ukrainian families who are hosting family members under the Ukrainian family scheme.”
On Wednesday, September 28, Eluned Morgan, Wales’s Health Minister, announced the continuation of free healthcare in Wales to Ukrainian residents displaced by the ongoing conflict.
The exemption will continue to apply unless there’s a significant change in circumstances in Ukraine.

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Carmarthenshire’s sensory garden: why locals should embrace this wellness trend

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WITH ‘#sensorygarden’ 499.1k views on TikTok – locals have the advantage of experiencing a sensory garden on their doorstep at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. Wildlife experts explain why you should visit.

Wildlife expert Sean McMenemy shares how sensory gardens can do wonders for our wellness whilst providing a safe haven for wildlife and encourages Carmarthenshire locals to visit their local sensory garden this autumn.

A sensory garden is an outdoor space that stimulates the five senses of sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste, and can be created in your own garden. Sensory gardens at home remain relatively rare, but the trend is growing with the TikTok hashtag ‘#sensorygarden’ amassing 499.1k views*. 

Carmarthenshire, dubbed the Garden of Wales, has a huge array of beautiful green spaces to explore. It’s home to the National Botanic Garden of Wales which spans a huge 568 acres, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The stunning Great Glasshouse features a sensory trail that explores the largest single-span greenhouse in the world! From fluffy flowers from South Africa to a strongly scented Australian plant, it’ll engage all your senses. 

Having recently gifted King Charles with a beautiful oak sapling, the National Botanic Garden of Wales care deeply about the nation’s natural heritage. For those visiting the garden, the paths are wheelchair accessible with manual wheelchairs available on site. Open 10am – 6pm every day of the week.

Wildlife expert and founder of bird food provider Ark Wildlife, Sean McMenemy, explains the benefits of sensory gardening: “Sensory gardens provide a great deal of physical and mental benefits for different people and purposes. From getting vitamin D from sunlight to improving physical fitness by maintaining a garden, there are several physical benefits. Mentally, you can benefit from a mood boost and relaxation by spending time surrounded by calming stimulation.

“Sensory gardens can also have huge benefits for children, older people, those with learning disabilities and those who struggle with their physical and mental health. You can also create a sensory garden for your pets and garden wildlife!”

Top tips for creating your own sensory garden

If you do have the outdoor space, creating your own sensory garden is therapeutic in itself and doesn’t need to be a complicated process. The most important thing is to ensure that the garden engages all five senses. 

Melody Estes, landscape design gardening supervisor, says: “Whether you’re new to gardening or a seasoned pro, you can always improve your garden by adding some sensory elements.” 

Here are some tips from Melody for creating a sensory garden:

Sight – Plant colourful flowers that change with the seasons.

Sound – If you have a fountain or water feature on your property, consider adding some relaxing music to play alongside it. You could also place chimes near your front door to welcome people in.

Smell – Use scent. Consider planting scented flowers or herbs like lavender, rosemary and thyme that will give off a lovely aroma when they bloom.

Touch – Mix textures. The texture of plants can be as important as their colour and shape. Try using plants with soft leaves like ferns or grasses that are texturally different.

Taste – Planting herbs, fruits and vegetables not only provide tasty treats, but is a sustainable source of food.

Sean McMenemy adds: “Sensory gardens are an easy way to engage with wildlife and the outdoor environment. Growing your own plants and vegetables provides countless ways to learn about the natural world.

“You can bring your sensory garden to life by using bird feeders to attract beautiful feathered friends into your garden. They’ll bring the sound element to your sensory garden naturally. Fragrant flowers will attract colourful butterflies and other pollinators to your garden, giving you something to observe whilst helping nature to thrive.”

Some people may not have the time, money or space to create their own sensory garden. However, those with balconies and window ledges can still plant colourful, sweet-smelling flowers and edible plants. This mini sensory garden can still provide the benefits and satisfaction of an outdoor garden.

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