Sunday 18 March 2018

Gardai investigating crash discovered cannabis growhouse with plants potentially worth over €700,000


Fiona Ferguson

Gardaí investigating a crashed van on a laneway discovered a cannabis growhouse where plants with a potential value of over €700,000 were being cultivated, a court has heard.

The driver of the van, Steven Hudson (39), described as having a low level role within the sophisticated operation, received a four-and-a-half year sentence, with the final two years suspended.

Hudson, of The Lime, Rockfield Apartments, Dundrum, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of cannabis for sale or supply at a rented house at Keelogues, Heronford Lane, Rathmichael on June 14, 2016. He has 15 previous convictions.

Judge Karen O'Connor said Hudson was not the “mastermind” of the operation and neither was he “a man of means” as a result of the offence.

She said that normally an offence of this nature would warrant a heavier sentence, but that she was impressed by Hudson's rehabilitation off methadone and by the fact that his partner needed his support because they have a child with significant health challenges.

The court heard Garda Daniel Cuff and Garda Martin Egan responded to a report of a van which had crashed into a small bridge at Heronford Lane, Shankill. They began looking for the owner and were directed to a house at the top of the lane where the van had been seen on previous days.

Lisa Dempsey BL, prosecuting, said there was no answer at the house but gardaí noticed a smell of cannabis coming from a vent at the rear of the house. They also noticed blacked-out windows and the humming of an extractor fan, which lead them to suspect it was a growhouse.

Gardaí put a surveillance operation in place as they sought a search warrant for the house. Hudson, who seemed nervous, approached the house and admitted being the owner of the van. He was then seen to make several phone calls.

The house was searched and gardaí discovered 917 plants growing under artificial lights with a potential value of €733,600. Only 501 of the plants were at a stage where they were ready to be harvested for sale and had an actual value of €400,800.

The ESB supply to part of the house was unmetered having been bypassed or “spliced.” The house had been rented from its owner three months previously.

At 11pm that night, Hudson was seen returning to the area and taking an interest in what was happening. He was followed by gardaí and arrested.

Hudson's fingerprints were recovered from items related to the care of the plants, such as fans and thermostats. Harvested and bagged cannabis, with a street value of €29,960, were also found in the house. Hudson's fingerprints were not found on the bagged cannabis.

Michael Bowman SC, defending, said Hudson was not the “mastermind” behind the operation. He said it would have taken capital to set up the operation and his client was not a man of means.

He said Hudson's level of involvement was to look after the plants. He said Hudson had no horticultural skills and fulfilled a role which was immediately expendable and replaceable.

Mr Bowman said Hudson was a father of two whose eldest child had significant health difficulties. He said Hudson struggled with a 20-year drug addiction and at time of this offending, he had relapsed into the use of cocaine and prescription medication.

Counsel said Hudson wanted to turn his life around and was using his time in custody wisely. He was now entirely drug-free.

Judge O'Connor directed Hudson to keep the peace for two years on release and engage with probation services for 12 months, taking part in any addiction and employment programmes as directed.

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