A CONVICTED Blackpool mum says she was driven to criminality after a gang threatened her family and home.
Mother-of-five Julie Cullen was this week slapped with a suspended prison sentence for allowing her home on Exchange Street in North Shore to be used as a cannabis farm.
She pleaded guilty to the offence – but today told The Gazette she was forced into it by a gang who left needles in her garden and threatened to petrol bomb her home where she lived with her young children.
The 47-year-old said: “I did try saying no but my children were under threat. The gang said it was a nine-week cultivation system – after that they would leave us alone.
“It started with name-calling and then we would find hypodermic needles in the front garden. They put bricks through our door. It was distressing for all the family.
“We were threatened with our house being burnt down. We were threatened at least 50 times but there were no witnesses to prove they’d said it. I couldn’t say no.”
The mum was sentenced in Preston Crown Court this week along with her 19-year-old lodger and friend Daniel Dugdale, who pleaded guilty to producing cannabis, possession of the drug, possessing with intent to supply, affray and possession of a weapon, which was a pepper spray.
Shaun Hallan, of Sutherland Road, North Shore, admitted possessing cannabis with intent to supply and being concerned in cannabis supply.
Police uncovered 120 plants in the extension part of Cullen’s house in March 2010. snap bags, scales, and mobile phones were also found.
A month later a second search was carried out at Cullen’s home after allegations were made Dugdale had made threats to people with an air pistol.
Fifty snap bags of cannabis leaf – with an estimated street value of £750 – and some weighing scales as well as a pneumatic air gun and pellets were seized from the property.
Mrs Cullen, who previously campaigned for alley gates to make the community safer and hit out at plans to house ex-criminals in a hostel on her street, said she had never been evicted from her home but now hopes to move away to re-build her life.
She added: “The pellet gun was one I had from when I was a member of a rifle club.
“Daniel is in prison and I’ve got a suspended prison sentence and a tag. It is a heavy price for us to pay.
“If it happened again I would lock the criminals in the house and call the police.
“I’m hoping it’s all behind us. We have moved on and moved away.”
Cullen, from South Shore, was given 26 weeks in jail suspended for two years with a 12 week long curfew from 8pm until 8am. Dugdale was jailed for two years. Hallan, 31, was also handed 26 weeks in prison suspended for two years, unpaid work and a 12 week long curfew.