A DRUG dealer caught with more than 50 cannabis plants in his home and cocaine hidden in a vacuum cleaner has escaped a jail sentence.

When police raided the Queens Road house owned by 33-year-old Gary Woolford in October they found a drugs factory with 57 cannabis plants in various stages of growth and 20 grams of uncut cocaine inside the dust bag of a vacuum cleaner.

Woolford initially pleaded not guilty to possession with intent to supply, but changed his mind on the day of trial.

And on April 12 this year at St Albans Crown Court he admitted to possession with intent to supply the cannabis, but simple possession to the more serious charge of cocaine.

Woolford has not filed a tax return for several years and has had his property including an Audi sports car seized by police. They also seized a Cartier watch Woolford claimed was given to him by his parents, and an expensive DVD player and television.

Woolford admitted being addicted to drugs for 15-years and the court heard he was growing the cannabis to pay someone off.

He was assessed by probation before sentencing as suitable for a drug rehabilitation order, which means regular testing to show he is drug free.

And Judge Plumstead told Woolford at St Albans Crown Court on Friday he was a "lucky man" to be given the chance.

Woolford received an 18-month community order, which includes six months drug rehabilitation with tests twice a week, and 150 hours unpaid work.

Judge Plumstead said: "You are a lucky man. You could have easily have gone to jail for this. But I think it is far better to make sure you stay off the gear.

"If you do not stick to it I will revoke the order and resentence you and you will go to prison."

He added: "The 150 hours unpaid work is because people that lead a druggy lifestyle do not get up like others, and for the rest of your life you will have to find normal work.

"It will be good practice for when you get a job and every hour you do you can think how lucky you are not to be staring at a cell wall. "