POLICE circling a Taunton Deane housing estate in a helicopter discovered hundreds of cannabis plants being cultivated under lamps.

The thermal imaging equipment picked up on a large amount of heat radiating from Paul Cole's house in Rockwell Green, Wellington, which raised suspicion.

On searching the house on March 9 this year, they discovered 281 cannabis plants with an estimated street value of £17,984.

Cole, 37, admitted growing the plants using a hydroponic system, but it was accepted they were for non-commercial use and that some of them would die before reaching maturity.

Taunton Crown Court heard last Friday it was the third time Cole had been convicted of cannabis related offences.

Recorder William Hart sentenced him to an eight-month suspended sentence.

He warned: "If you do this again, it is inevitable that you will get sent to prison next time. You have a family to support, so it is time you got your life in order."

"There must be no other offending during the next two year period."

He was also ordered to carry out 100 hours unpaid work within the community.

A hearing under the proceeds of crime act was adjourned for 28 days, and an order was made for the destruction of the plants and the equipment.