Actor who specialised in playing gangsters jailed for eight years for running one of Britain’s biggest ever drug farms

An actor who specialised in playing gangsters in films and TV crime shows was jailed for eight years today for running one of Britain’s biggest cannabis factories. Businessman Desmond Bayliss, 41, was the head of a giant drugs enterprise in which 800 cannabis plants were grown in barns the size of two football pitches on a farm in Lincolnshire. The hard-man who starred as a crimelord opposite Ray Winstone in a gritty ITV1 cop drama and then with Clive Owen as a villain called Cannibal in a cult movie was a key figure in the real life ‘organised crime’ operation. He was one of 13 men charged after the farm was raided following a five month police investigation. Detectives uncovered a complex set-up in huge barns at the farm in Castle Bytham near Grantham with a potential annual cannabis yield worth around £2.75 million.  As well as over 800 cannabis plants, officers discovered 1,600 empty buckets prepared for drug cultivation. The barns had undergone extensive adaptation – costing around £1.4m – with generators, fans, lighting and ventilation equipment installed. At the time officers said they were amazed by the scale of the factory and one senior officer believed it was the biggest of its type found in England.

At Stafford Crown Court, Bayliss, from Toxteth in Liverpool, was convicted of conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis and will now face a proceeds of crime hearing. The farm’s owner, Iain Brown, 60, from Chichester, Sussex, was also convicted of conspiracy and jailed for eight years. Both men denied the charges. Nine other men pleaded guilty to drugs offences and seven of them were jailed for a total of 27 years. Two other men were acquitted following a two-month trial. In the 1990s Bayliss, who ran a security firm with 50 bouncers and owned a Liverpool nightclub, landed a string of acting jobs after appearing as a hoodlum in a controversial Channel 4 drama-documentary called Shooters. The father of one played crime boss John Lock in Ray Winstone’s ITV1 drama Lenny Blue in 2003 then after other roles on TV got a part in the 2004 crime movie I’ll Sleep when I’m Dead directed by Get Carter director Mike Hodges. In an interview in 2002 with his local newspaper after finding fame Bayliss said: ‘I want to stay true to my character and treat people the same as I always have – even though I get asked for autographs now and travel to London a lot.’ But his acting career later dried up and he teamed up with real life criminals to run the cannabis operation.

The police raid occurred in September 2010 after officers kept the gang under a surveillance as they met on a car park off the A38 at Barton under Needwood, Staffs before following them 70 miles as the drove to the farm. He was jailed alongside eight other men for varying degrees of involvement in the drug ring. Neil Bridges, 36, from Hammerwich, Burntwood, was jailed for six years after admitting conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis. Peter Bassett, 47, from Rugeley, was jailed for four years after admitting conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis. Tony Mobbs, 46, from Barton under Needwood, was jailed for three and a half years after admitting conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis. Paul Hicks, 41, from Solihull, was jailed for three and a half years after admitting conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis. Robert Eyland, 35, from Minworth, near Sutton Coldfield, was given a three-year prison sentence after admitting conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis. John Stacey, 47, from Sutton Coldfield, was jailed for four years after admitting conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis. His son Andrew Stacey, 28, from Sutton Coldfield, was sentenced to three years jail after admitting conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis.

 Barry Brearley, 65, from West Bromwich, was given a 12 month suspended prison sentence and a community order after admitting conspiracy to produce cannabis. Shane Breen 38, from Barton under Needwood, was given a community order after admitting the production of cannabis. Today Detective Chief Inspector Jane Hewett, from Staffordshire Police, said: ‘Today’s lengthy sentences follow a wide-ranging investigation which derailed a major cannabis growing enterprise. ‘These men were part of an organised crime group, with criminal links nationwide, who set up one of the country’s biggest cannabis factory set-ups. They met on a car park off the A38 at Barton under Needwood before travelling to the farm. ‘The enterprise was thwarted in its early stages thanks to excellent work by officers from our Serious and Organised Crime Unit, supported by our colleagues in Lincolnshire. ‘Operation Nemesis is continuing to bring drug dealers to justice across the county. Today’s sentences send a clear message to people are thinking of producing or dealing drugs in Staffordshire: they will be caught and brought to justice. ‘There is no doubt that several of these offenders were living lavish lifestyles funded by drug crime. Significant amounts of cash were seized during the arrest operation and the Proceeds of Crime Act will be used to strip them of their assets.’

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