A CONVICTED robber who kept a loaded pistol in his home, which contained a large-scale cannabis farm, has been jailed for nine years.

Michael Carroll, who was on licence from a six-year sentence for drugs offences, admitted producing cannabis and possessing a Beretta 9mm self-loading pistol with three bullets.

Sitting at Liverpool Crown Court, Judge Nigel Gilmour QC said that, after leaving prison in May 2011, the 33-year-old continued to follow a life of crime. This July he was caught with the gun, which he kept in a kitchen drawer and was loaded with bullets designed to expand on impact.

He told Carroll, from Johnson Avenue in Prescot: “Your only regret is that you were caught.

“You were running a cannabis operation and it is another case of a cannabis farm found in someone’s house.”

Judge Gilmour said that since 2007, there had been a 241 per cent increase in cannabis farms on Merseyside, adding: “And it is another case where there is a clear link between firearms and the cultivation of cannabis.

Simon Duncan, prosecuting, told the court that drying cannabis was found in upstairs rooms at his home, which weighed around three-and-a-half kilos and a potential street value of £69,000.

Carroll also has convictions for three robberies armed with a hammer and imitation gun.

He claimed that he had been growing the drug for around four months because he was under pressure to pay off a £2,000 cocaine debt and had been given the loaded gun to mind six weeks before his arrest.