A CANNABIS farmer has been locked up after a court heard he came to Wirral to grow the drug and claim free healthcare.

Arvydas Abromavicius, a Lithuanian national, was caught after police entered an address in New Ferry and found him alongside plants and growing equipment.

The 57-year-old was arrested and later charged with producing cannabis, before being hauled before Liverpool Crown Court for sentence.

He appeared via video link from prison, having been remanded in custody, and was assisted by a Russian interpreter.

The facts of the case were given by Paul Blasbery, prosecuting, who spoke of how police attended Onslow Road in New Ferry on February 19 this year.

Officers heard noises coming from inside the property in question and entered, finding a large tent inside between the living room and kitchen.

The defendant was sat inside the address on the couch beside the tent.

A search of the property revealed 70 cannabis plants were being grown, and these were seized alongside growing equipment.

Abromavicius was arrested and subsequently interviewed, where he answered ‘no comment’ to each and every question put to him.

Due to the plants only being recovered just over a month ago, no street value for the controlled class B drug was available to the court, it was said.

Mr Blasbery revealed that the defendant has ‘no previous convictions’.

On behalf of her client, Anna Duke referenced how Abromavicius pleaded guilty before Wirral Magistrates’ Court and should be afforded "maximum credit" for doing so.

She said that he came to this country due to his own health problems and that of his wife, who was said to be "very ill".

It was also said that he came due to "not being able to work in Europe" and to access free healthcare, with this requiring payment in his native Lithuania.

It was confirmed however that he agreed while abroad and before entering the UK to engage in the criminal enterprise of growing the drug on arrival.

“He has been in custody since his arrest, and it has been quite unpleasant for him as he does not speak English and has been ostracised from his family,” Ms Duke said.

“He knows a custodial sentence has to follow. I ask your honour to keep it as low as possible.”

Before sentencing, judge Stuart Driver said: “You were abroad when you agreed to commit this offence, and you travelled into this country for the sole purpose of committing it.

“The sentence has been reduced for your guilty plea, but it cannot be suspended as appropriate punishment can only be achieved by immediate custody.”

Abromavicius, of no fixed abode, was sentenced to eight months in prison, of which he will serve half before being released under supervision and on licence.

The court also approved an order for the forfeiture and destruction of the cannabis plants and associated paraphernalia.