Veteran grew drugs to ease nightmares

A former Army sergeant from Sudbury who claimed he grew cannabis to help his post traumatic stress could face prison, a court heard.

Iain Fordham, 38, from First Avenue, admitted possession and production of cannabis in April when he appeared at Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court on Friday. His partner, Belinda Barnes, 44, also admitted possessing the drug.

The court heard that police officers had seen Fordham’s 4x4 parked in Northern Road in Sudbury and had gone to his home address.

Wayne Ablett, prosecuting, said: “The door was opened by Miss Barnes and the officer said he could smell cannabis from inside the home.

“He stepped inside and saw a clear tub with fresh green cannabis buds inside on a table.”

Barnes was arrested and admitted the drug was for her own personal use.

The court heard Fordham returned home while a full search of the home was being carried out. Police discovered more cannabis and growing equipment in several locations before searching a shed and discovering plants, electrical gauges, a lighting and hydroponic system and other equipment.

A total of 447 grammes of cannabis was discovered, with a street value of £4,000, in addition to the yield from the 12 plants found which was estimated to be worth between £2,000 and £8,000.

Fordham admitted the crime in interview and stated the plants were for his own personal use as he did not want to buy cannabis from anyone else.

The court heard he had one other conviction, having been given a two-year conditional discharge in June for using threatening and abusive behaviour after slapping a stroke victim in a road rage argument. Barnes had no previous convictions.

Malcolm Plummer, in mitigation, said: “Looking at the amounts here, you would think this looks like a professional drug dealing factory but it quite clearly isn’t.”

He told the court Fordham spent 21 years in the Royal Anglian Army Regiment before being made redundant in June.

“He served four tours in Afghanistan and tours of Bosnia, Northern Ireland and Kosovo and saw plenty of action,” said Mr Plummer. “He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.”

At the time of the offences, he was still a sergeant in the Army earning £40,000 per year, but has since left the forces and is due to start receiving pension payments in December. The court heard Fordham hoped to become a landscape gardener and is due to start a horticulture degree course in September.

“His partner has been a casual cannabis user and he started to use it as a means of dealing with his problems – he said he still gets horrible nightmares,” said Mr Plummer.

The couple, who have three children aged 16, 18 and 23 from previous relationships, were released on unconditional bail pending pre-sentence reports and will return to court for sentencing on September 6.

Graham Higgins, presiding magistrate, said all options would remain open.