A Bradford judge today hit out at the growing “scourge” of cannabis farms when he jailed an Albanian man for 15 months for working as a gardener at a sophisticated 367-plant drugs factory.

Mateo Pire, 23, had paid £13,000 to be illegally trafficked into the country after being told that “the streets were paved with gold,” Bradford Crown Court heard.

Pire, of no fixed address, was caught red-handed at the address at Civic Hall, Calder Street, West Vale, Elland, on November 3 last year.

Prosecutor Mehran Nassiri said the police forced their way into the property and dis-covered a cannabis farm on three floors in four rooms.

In all, there were 367 plants and the remains of a previous harvest. There were the usual lights, fans and watering system, making it a sophisticated commercial grow, Mr Nassiri said.

There was a bed and a well-stocked fridge and freezer at the address.

Pire pleaded guilty to production of cannabis and was sentenced on a video link to Leeds Prison where he was remanded in custody.

The court heard that he admitted the offence on the basis that he was a gardener and had no say in the running of the organisation.

His barrister, Jonathan Turner, said in mitigation that Pire had been sold the lie that the streets of the United Kingdom were paved with gold.

He at first worked in the black market as a decorator and in restaurants to pay off the £13,000 debt he had accrued to be trafficked into the country.

Mr Turner said his work at that point was unlawful only because he was an illegal immigrant and did not have the right to be employed in Britain.

The coronavirus pandemic put an end to the jobs he was able to find and enforcement began to call in the remainder of the debt. He was taken to the Elland address to farm the cannabis instead, the court was told.

Pire told the police he had been at the property for ten days when he was apprehended.

Recorder Anthony Hawks accepted that he was a gardener and had no hand in setting up the cannabis grow or running it.

But he told Pire: “These cannabis farms are becoming a scourge in this country and they couldn’t operate without people like yourself.”

He warned him he would be immediately deported when he had served his 15-month prison sentence.