A DRUG dealer who avoided prison after setting up a secret lair to grow drugs has now been jailed, following a hearing at the Court of Appeal.

Police raided James Brooks, 24, home in April and found a secret hideaway where he was growing large quantities of cannabis.

Officers also found a “large amount” of cocaine in a safe, a machete, knuckleduster, scales, and “deal bags”.

Initially, Brooks, of Viceroy Court, Victoria Avenue, Southend, was handed an 18-month suspended sentence at Basildon Crown Court after he pleaded guilty to producing a Class B drug, possession of a Class B drug with intent to supply and possession with intent to supply a Class A drug.

But after a hearing yesterday the Court of Appeal quashed the original sentence.

Instead Brooks has now been sentenced to 32-months in prison and has been ordered to surrender himself to Southend police station.

Essex Police’s specialist Op Raptor team found herbal cannabis, cocaine and a false room which has been constructed within his bedroom which housed a small cannabis growing operation, when they raided the home.

Six plants of the Class B drug were growing inside.

Officers searched the rest of the property and found: scales; deal bags to parcel up drugs for customers; cash; a knuckleduster; and a machete.

Brooks was originally given a 18-month suspended sentence and ordered to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work and a 12-month drug rehabilitation order.

An Essex Police spokesman said: “Operation Raptor will continue to target those people selling drugs on the streets of our county.

“We will also continue to work hand in hand with our criminal justice partners to ensure that those involved in this type of crime will continue to face the full force of the law.”

A CPS Spokesperson from the East of England area said: “The Court of Appeal agreed that the sentence was unduly lenient and quashed the original sentence before subsequently increasing the length of imprisonment.

“Crimes of this type have devastating effects on our local communities and we will continue to work in partnership with the police to ensure offenders are brought to justice.”

Essex Police set up Operation Raptor teams in the North, South and West of the county to tackle drug and gang-related crime.

If you have information about drug or gang-related crime in your community contact us on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.