AN ex-soldier set up a £17,000 commercial cannabis factory in his attic to try to save the family home after he fell on hard times, a court was told.

Father-of-two Caramat Taj, 53, was in debt, but not to drug dealers.

He was in mortgage arrears and owed thousands to HSBC, NatWest and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Taj, who has never been in trouble before and served abroad with the British Army in the 1980s, had 19 mature cannabis plants growing in a tent. When two of them were analysed it was found they could have produced more than twice the usual 40 gram yield.

Burnley Crown Court heard the defendant told police he needed every penny to save the property where he lived with his sons, which was on the point of being repossessed.

He said he was trying to grow cannabis and get rid of it fast. When asked by officers what he would have done with the drugs, he replied: “I would have sold them and kept my house.”

Taj was also cultivating cannabis in a bedroom wardrobe, where between 24 and 30 smaller plants were found.

The defendant was accompanied to court by 'supporters' from his church and the pastor had written a letter to Judge Beverley Lunt.

Taj was given a two year jail term, after he admitted producing cannabis and abstracting electricity.

The defendant, of Colne Road, Burnley, was told by the judge: "You made a considered decision to make this a business, even at 53, and a man of good character and a man to whom this is wholly out of character."

Stephen Parker, prosecuting, said last October 14, police went to Taj's address, he was in and after repeatedly knocking they were about to put the front door in when he opened it.

They explained he was under arrest and he indicated there were plants in the attic. The electricity meter had also been by-passed.

Keith Harrison, defending Taj, said: “It's a sad day for him and his family and supporters because this is not the usual thing he does. It is an an enormous fall from grace.”