A former soldier in the Territorial Army has been jailed after police sniffed out a cannabis factory in his flat and discovered a rocket launcher hidden underneath his bed.
Mark Chalcroft, aged 46, was discovered to be growing cannabis plants in his flat, in Fullerburn Court, Lumbertubs, when police were called to deal with a fatal overdose in another flat in the same block.
While officers were attending to the victim they smelled cannabis and, following the scent, they then knocked on Chalcroft’s door and searched the property.
Inside, behind a locked door, they found a rudimentary cannabis-growing facility, with 28 plants inside.
Police continued searching the flat and found a rocket launcher hidden underneath Chalcroft’s bed.
The device, described in court as an “anti-tank weapon”, had a stamp on it saying it was deactivated.
However, experts tested the weapon and concluded it was still capable of firing rockets.
Police did not find any rockets or ammunition at the address.
Talking about the expert’s finding, Rebecca Wade, prosecuting, said: “There was a stamp on it, which would indicate deactivation, but he said that hadn’t taken place.
“He [the expert] said it was still capable of firing rockets, although there was nothing found within the property that could have been used to do so.”
In defence, Matthew Lowe said Chalcroft “genuinely and honestly believed the weapon had been deactivated”.
He said: “This is a man who had been in the Territorial Army for some 12 years and had something of a fascination with all things weaponry and as a memento or a souvenir he purchased it.”
He described the cannabis factory as “far from the most sophisticated set-up, in terms of the number of plants being cultivated or the equipment or systems being used.”
Chalcroft was jailed for two years for each charge of cannabis cultivation and possession of a rocket launcher, at Northampton Crown Court, to be served concurrently.
Mark Chalcroft was spared a mandatory five-year prison sentence for possession of a rocket launcher after Judge Richard Bray ruled there were “exceptional circumstances” to the case.
Charges of firearm or gun possession carry minimum sentences, and Chalcroft had faced at least five years behind bars.
Sentencing him last Thursday, Judge Bray said: “This is a serious weapon, which could have very serious consequences if it fell into the wrong hands. I accept your basis of plea, that you purchased the weapon as a kind of souvenir and never intended to use it.
“It has a deactivation stamp on it, which suggests it could not be fired.
“But as a former member of the Territorial Army you should have checked if this was a potentially dangerous weapon or not.”
He added: “I accept that there are exceptional features in this case and the five-year minimum sentence doesn’t need to be applied