A CRIMINAL who had cannabis plants worth thousands of pounds in his home was rumbled because of a council tax refund.

The cannabis factory was found inside the home of Lewis Hamer in St Leonards.

But as police raided his flat, he fled out of the window.

Inside, officers found 38 plants being grown, with a flue out of the chimney to take the smells away.

There were horticulture books giving advice about how to grow the plants and there were scales and dealing bags.

Prosecutors estimate the value of the hoard was £45,000.

The Argus:

After facing charges in December 2014 of possessing drugs with intent to supply, Hamer “panicked” and went on the run.

He remained at large for nearly five years until he was found in Eastbourne.

At Hove Crown Court Hamer admitted producing cannabis, possessing class B drugs with intent to supply, and possessing the class B drug.

Read more on The Argus: Cannabis factory found in loft after raid

But despite fleeing his court proceedings, he was spared an immediate spell behind bars.

The court heard that he has not had any problems with the law in the five years he was on the run in Eastbourne.

Jennifer Gray, prosecuting, told the court that police were called over loud noises and a smashed window in St Leonards at 5.30am on December 21, 2014.

She said there were 38 plants found growing in the flat.

The Argus:

“Police were able to identify the defendant when they fond a letter from the local authority about his council tax refund,” she said.

It is understood he had scaled down some scaffolding and fled as police arrived, but was later arrested.

Hamer, of Pevensey Road, Eastbourne, failed to attend court in October 2015 and had not been heard from since.

Read more on The Argus: Drugs worth £34,000 seized during raid on cannabis factory

But the 26-year-old has now “matured”, got a new partner, and is looking for work as a plasterer, the court heard.

Laura Plant, defending, said her client had kept out of trouble.

In the past he was a heavy cannabis user and was forced out of his parents’ home. He fell in with the wrong crowd and felt forced to convert his flat into a cannabis factory, Ms Plant said.

Judge Christine Laing QC imposed a 20-month suspended sentence with 300 hours of unpaid work in the community.