Met officer who grew cannabis in loft walks free


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The Independent Online

A Met Police officer who grew cannabis in his loft walked free from court today after receiving a suspended prison sentence.

Pc David Price's distinguished career lies in tatters as he faces dismissal from the Metropolitan Police following his conviction.

Price, 29, was on the verge of promotion having passed his exams to become a sergeant when he was arrested.

He was captured on undercover video footage hanging cannabis plants out to dry at a property in Keynshan, Somerset.

When police raided the house in Charlton Road last August they found equipment capable of producing 18 cannabis plants.

Other video clips show the father of four openly talking about marijuana while his children can be heard in the background.

Bristol Crown Court heard that three other people involved in the operation gave the footage of Price with the drugs to the Daily Mirror newspaper.

They would have been paid £1,000 if the story was published, the court was told.

At an earlier hearing Price - who at the time of his arrest was helping tackle last summer's London's riots - pleaded guilty to producing cannabis.

His former partner, Emily Bayliss, 27, admitted being concerned in the production of the Class B drug.

Price was given a 16-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work and told to pay £1,500 prosecution costs by Judge Carol Hagen.

Bayliss received a 12-month community order with supervision and a requirement to do 10 days of employment, training or education.

The court heard that Price, who was based at Paddington police station in west London, had split up from Bayliss at the beginning of 2010.

She had remained in the family home with the children but Price, who was now living with his parents, continued to pay the mortgage - putting him under growing financial pressure.

Prosecutor Claire Howell said Price was a "warehouseman" for the cannabis-growing operation while Bayliss - although not directly involved - had allowed her loft to be used.

"In summary, Mr Price was playing a substantial role and the prosecution say he was a 'warehouseman'," Miss Howell said.

"The prosecution would say he was not a seasoned operator. The prosecution would accept that Mr Price was not the person who set it up.

"The prosecution cannot prove to the criminal standard who organised this but the prosecution do not suggest that it was Mr Price and we do not suggest that he had a leading role."

The court was told that the cannabis Price produced was of poor quality and that in order to make any money the three others had given the footage to the Daily Mirror.

"As a serving police officer, it made him a target," Miss Howell said.

The three were arrested by police but were never charged.

"There is some evidence they were involved in dealing cannabis," Miss Howell said.

"It is certainly right to say that all three denied in their interviews that they were involved and they suggested they were gathering their evidence in order to implicate Mr Price.

"They would say they were simply acting as agent provocateurs."

Police raided Price's former home on August 16 last year and he maintained during an interview with detectives that he knew nothing of the cannabis until he was arrested.

"The video footage suggests that he was not the innocent he made out to be," Miss Howell said.

Bayliss told police the three others had forced her into the enterprise and that her former partner knew nothing of it.

"She attempted to minimise his role in a wholly misguided attempt to protect Mr Price because Miss Bayliss knew the consequences to her and Mr Price if he was to lose his job," Miss Howell said.

Passing sentence, Judge Carol Hagen told Price: "In your case it is not an exaggeration to describe you as having been an outstanding police officer with a very promising career.

"All that thrown away because of the sheer folly of what you did. I can only conclude the reason you did what you did was for financial pressure.

"It is clear that the three others involved in this enterprise were experienced and knowledgeable in the cultivation of cannabis, which you clearly were not.

"When it became apparent that the quality of the cannabis was in question, those three other individuals looked elsewhere for financial rewards and they obtained that financial reward with the footage they took and showed to a newspaper - that being your involvement in the cultivation of cannabis."

Judge Hagan said she found Price's involvement in the operation somewhere between a "significant and a lesser role".

"Your personal qualities shine through in the references I read. It is obvious that you are an excellent and deeply committed father to your children.

"The fact that a serving police officer was involved in criminal behaviour must be reflected in the sentence I pass.

"You have the offer of future employment and I do not want to put that in jeopardy.

"I think, in the circumstances of this unusual case, I must impose a custodial sentence which can be suspended."

Judge Hagan told Bayliss that she had played a minor role in the cannabis-growing operation.

"Yours was a passive role rather than an active one. I accept that you have a vulnerable character," she said.

"It is apparent from everything I have read that you are an excellent mother."

Richard Shepherd, defending Price, said no one would really know why his client's three associates went to the Daily Mirror.

"Who knows what happened to make them turn on David Price and Emily Bayliss," he said.

"Maybe he got into a dispute or maybe they didn't get the returns they wanted.

"Maybe he realised he had made a mistake and that was the end of it and those three were not happy with that state of affairs."

Mr Shepherd said that Price continued to pay the mortgage on the family home following the end of his relationship.

"He travels on almost a daily basis to work his shifts at the Metropolitan Police," he said.

"When in London he either sleeps on friend's sofas or in the back of his car. No one would expect anyone to go to those lengths in that type of city with those risks."

Mr Shepherd said that Price's superiors had spoken of him in glowing terms and that he had a very promising career with the police.

"It is a pity and shame upon him that he has thrown away a career. It is pity that we cannot have more officers like him," he said.

"He did not abuse his position as a police officer. He was not dishonest and he did not take advantage of others as a police officer.

"It is a great shame that a good officer has been sacrificed because of a moment of stupidity."

Mr Shepherd said that Price had tendered his resignation last year in order that he would not be on full pay during a period of suspension.

However, the Met Police rejected his resignation because he would instead be dismissed from the force.

Mr Shepherd said that since his arrest, Price was retraining as an electrician and had secured employment as a landscape gardener.

Edward Hetherington, defending Bayliss, described her role in the operation as being on the periphery.

"Miss Bayliss accepts her wrongdoing, shows her genuine remorse and has effectively taken it on the chin," he said.

"She did not profit from this enterprise and had little knowledge of it."

The barrister added: "I invite your honour to take the view that she is a naive young woman."

A Met Police spokesman confirmed Price was suspended from duty and misconduct proceedings would now take place.