One of the leading personalities in Hucknall sport has been given a suspended prison-sentence for growing cannabis plants at his home.
Shamed former Notts CCC cricketer and manager John Birch (59) was chairman of Hucknall’s highest-ranked cricket club, Rolls-Royce Leisure in the Notts Premier League, last summer.
But he “made a monumental mistake in an otherwise unblemished career” by getting involved in drugs, Judge James Sampson told him at Nottingham Crown Court.
“This is a sad day for a person who has been distinguished in all other aspects of life,” said the judge.
“You were a professional cricketer and have devoted your life to that sport. People speak highly of you. But this is a serious offence.”
Birch, of Commonside, Selston, pleaded guilty to charges of producing 36 cannabis plants and of dishonestly wasting or diverting £703 worth of electricity at a house on Brookhill Leys Road, Eastwood, where he was living at the time.
He was sentenced to two years in jail, suspended for two years, and also ordered to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work in the community.
The judge said Birch would have been sent straight to prison but for the fact that he was a man of previous good character and that he had pleaded guilty immediately.
“You can count yourself very lucky indeed, given the prevalence of cannabis crime in this county,” he added. “You played a leading role in this and said you intended to sell the cannabis.”
Martin Hurst (prosecuting) explained that the police executed a search warrant at the house on Wednesday 16th April.
After forcing their way in, they found the plants in a bedroom and found that the electricity meter had been bypassed.
“Mr Birch returned home during the search and said he had been living there for about four weeks,” continued Mr Hurst.
“He said he had grown the plants himself from seeds. He said he had never done it before, he did not use cannabis and did not know anyone who did.
“There was a certain amount of skill involved in the growing. He said he had bought the equipment for £2,000 from a man in a pub, whom he declined to name.”
No explanation was given in court as to why Birch grew the cannabis plants. His barrister, Steven Gosnell (defending) spoke very briefly after the judge indicated that he had already decided to impose a suspended sentence.
This was after he had read a pre-sentence report, prepared by the probation service, and also three character-references that had been presented to the judge on Birch’s behalf.