Farmer caught 'tending' to cannabis plants claims he was duped

Gardai said property was searched after confidential information was received from a “secret and sensitive source”.
Gardai said property was searched after confidential information was received from a “secret and sensitive source”.

Court Reporter

A part-time farmer who was caught tending to almost 200 cannabis plants at a derelict farmhouse has claimed he was ‘duped’ into renting the property to criminal elements.

John Caulfield, 61, of Kilknocking, Adare has pleaded guilty to a number of charges relating to a detection by members of the divisional drugs unit on January 25, 2017.

Detective Garda Declan O’Halloran told Limerick Circuit the property, around a mile from Adare, was searched after confidential information was received from a “secret and sensitive source”.

He said as gardai approached the farmhouse two men attempted to flee but were apprehended. One of them was Mr Caulfield while the other was identified as Mr X.

The detective said a “fully functional and sophisticated grow house” was discovered inside the house. A number of rooms had been adapted and a large number of plants were discovered.

John O’Sullivan BL, prosecuting, said a total of 197 plants were recovered and that gardai estimate they had been growing for around three months.

The potential street value of the cannabis was €157,000.

Detective Garda O’Halloran said there was also evidence which suggested that another upstairs room has been previously used to grow cannabis plants.

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Following his arrest, Mr Caulfield made admissions telling gardai that he had met Mr X a few years previously.

He said he had agreed in early 2016 to rent the farmhouse for €200 a month to an individual who was to use it as a storage facility.

The defendant said he only became aware that cannabis was being grown there in late 2016 when an issue arose relating to the payment of rent.

“There was a disagreement between John Caulfield and Mr X,” said Mr O’Sullivan who said the defendant claimed he was informed he would be paid from the proceeds of the crop.

While accepting there was an element of duress, Detective Garda O’Halloran said the married father of two adult children was aware of what was going on and assisted in the growing operation.

During interview Mr Caulfield, who is a popular figure in the Adare area, told gardai he was afraid he would be shot if he did not cooperate.

Pat Barriscale BL, said his client had no involvement in setting up the grow house and that it was Mr X who had secured the equipment and adapted the house.

“He was duped into a situation. It was innocently rented in the first place,” he said insisting his client only realised the property was being used as a grow house when he went looking for rent.

Mr Barriscale said his client told gardai he was relieved when he was arrested as it was a “burden on him personally”.

Mr Caulfield, he said, told gardai he was afraid he would be shot and that he couldn’t sleep.

“He is an honest, hard-working, genuine man,” said Mr Barriscale who added his client is also a very strong family man who will not be re-offending.

A number of testimonials were submitted to the court from members of the local community while Mr Caulfield’s employer gave evidence supporting him.

He said he was a “top class employee” who was in a position of trust.

He told the court there have been no problems with his work and that he is an easy man to deal with.

The witness told Mr O’Sullivan he was shocked when he heard about the allegations and that he had some sympathy for the position which Mr Caulfield found himself in.

“I have rented out properties myself – it could have happened to me,” he said.

Mr Barriscale submitted that given the exceptional circumstances of the case, it is open to the court not to impose the mandatory sentence of ten years’ imprisonment.

Judge O’Donnell adjourned the matter to October.

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