A WOMAN who claimed her £40,000 worth of cannabis was for ‘personal use’ has been spared prison.

Meena Katara, 48, of Dudgeon Drive, Oxford, admitted one count of producing a controlled drug of class B - cannabis on December 19.

Officers discovered the huge haul of drugs at her home on April 23, 2018.

Two tents were found to be cultivating some 16 plants in each, with the value of the drugs estimated to be £16,000 wholesale and £40,000 if sold separately on the street.

Yesterday, Judge Maria Lamb gave Katara a two-year community order, a nine-month drug rehabilitation requirement, 120 hours of unpaid work and £15,000 in costs to pay.

She said: “If you don’t carry out the requirements then you will come back before the court and will be sentenced, where you can expect at least three years in prison if this doesn’t work.

“It’s not gone away but I’m giving you the chance. It’s better for you to get on this programme now. You’ve got the chance to show me that the 21 months spent out of trouble is good, and you know what will happen if you don’t - so take this opportunity.”

Defending, James Reilley said in court that Katara is ‘trustworthy’, ‘hardworking’ and someone who has ‘suffered with trauma’.

He told the judge that she has experienced mental health problems and suffered a bereavement.

He said: “She has suffered from depression and anxiety for quite some time and this culminated in her decision to start growing this cannabis.

“She grew the cannabis because she felt unsafe to buy it as a single woman.”

Mr Reilley also spoke of how, almost two years since being caught growing the plant, Katara has 'turned her life around' by becoming a personal trainer at the gym where she works.

He said that with a custodial sentence, she would lose her house and job.

When Katara stood in the witness box at Oxford Crown Court in December she claimed she was ‘not really aware’ of the scale of cannabis she was growing.

She claimed that she borrowed the equipment to set up the operation and that her first effort was a ‘disaster’.

She said: “It’s not nice, so I just heard that people grow it and I thought 'why don’t I grow it'?”

But drugs expert Paul Duffin gave evidence that the cannabis yield would ‘absolutely not’ be consistent with personal use.

He said: “If someone was growing cannabis for their own personal use they would certainly not need two tents each capable of producing 16 plants.

“It is far beyond what anyone could say was suitable for personal use.”

Judge Lamb disagreed with Katara’s reason, saying it would have helped her case if she had told the court who had given her the equipment to grow the cannabis.

She said: “Perhaps she [Katara] should be more forthcoming about who lent her this equipment. This was going to find it’s way back into the supply chain. This wasn’t for personal use.

"You were turning a blind eye that this was going to get back out.”