A 71-year-old man has been given a three year suspended sentence for his part in cultivating Cannabis at a growhouse in South Donegal.
Peter Lam of Shore Road, Corry, Belleek, County Fermanagh was also given a concurrent three year suspended sentence for being in possession of cannabis with intent to sell on January 24, last at Garvanagh, Ballintra.
Lam had to enter into a bond of €500 and undertake not to record any further drug offences within a period of three years. He was also fined €750 and a charge of being of possession of cannabis taken into consideration.
Detective Garda Shane Maye told the court that gardaí had arrived at a two storey house on January 24 last.
He observed outhouses to the back of the house. The windows on the top floor had been boarded up.
He told the court that there was a silver car outside with the boot open. They observed lots of heaters and flower pots in the boot of the car.
On entering the house, gardaí observed a lot of Chinese food in the downstairs area. Upstairs there was a digital thermometer hanging from a fine wire. They also observed plant cuttings, sodium lights and transformers in the house.
Some of the plants were 20 centimetres in height.
Detective Maye observed that they were in the process of dismantling the growhouse.
Two hundred and sixty five plants were in the house which were estimated at having a street value of €212,000. The court heard that each plant was worth €800.
On behalf of the defendant, Peter Nolan told the court that his client had arrived from Hong Kong in Ireland, forty years ago. He described him as being “an innocent abroad.”
He said that Lam was a chef who opened Chinese restraunts and had a son who was studying science in Jordanstown.
He added that his client was suffering from ill health which included vascular difficulties, dementia and Diabetes.
He added that Lam was offered a €1,000 to help grow the Cannabis and that he agreed to do it as he was in financial difficulty.
Mr Nolan added that Lam was no danger to society given his age, his illness and his dementia.
He urged the judge to be lenient.
Circuit Court Judge John O’Hagan said that he views cases, such as these, with alarm. He said that growhouses are becoming a common feature in Ireland.
He described the running of these operations as being ‘very sophisticated’ adding that it involves renting the homes from unsuspecting landlords and, at times, bypassing the ESB so that no sudden surges of power are recorded and an irrigation system.
“We do not know how many plants were propagated,” Judge O’Hagan said.
A charge of being in possession of cannabis was taken into consideration.