A Welsh man cultivated 112 cannabis plants estimated to be worth €42,000 at hisCo. Tipperary home while he should have been serving a 12 year jail term in his native country for other serious drug offences, Clonmel Circuit Court heard last Friday.
Wesley Purse, aged 40, with an address at Ballydavid, Cloghera, Rossadrehid received a total of five years imprisonment at the Court for possession of drugs with intent to sell or supply to others and cultivating cannabis plants at that Rossadrehid address on May 3 last year.
Gda. Sgt. Cathal Godfrey gave evidence that gardai in Tipperary Town received confidential information from a reliable source that cannabis plants were being cultivated on a large scale by a Welsh national at a property he was renting in Rossadrehid.
Their enquiries found there had been exorbitant use of electricity at the premises and a meter was tampered with.
Gardai executed a search warrant on May 3 last year. They first entered the garage and found UV lighting and a running water system in an attic area and found 48 cannabis plants growing in a room.
While searching the house, they found €250 worth of cannabis herb in the kitchen. In an upstairs bedroom that had been locked, they found a sophisticated system for cultivating cannabis including UV lighting, fans and running water. Sixty-four cannabis plants were found there.
The owner of the house had no knowledge that Purse had been cultivating cannabis there and was very upset by his actions.
Gardai seized the plants and at 5.30pm on May 8, Det. Gda. John English came across Wesley Purse at Gladstone Street in Clonmel. He initially gave a false name to the detective and was arrested and brought to Clonmel and Cahir Garda Stations.
Purse admitted his involvement in growing cannabis while being interviewed by gardai and maintained he was coerced into cultivating the plants.
Sgt. Godfrey said this explanation had not been substantiated and gardai believe it was Purse's own operation. The defendant gave gardai the name of a man he said was his employer but it was a name Purse used himself as an alias.
Prosecuting barrister David Humphries said the estimated value of the cannabis plants seized was €42,000.
The court heard that Purse hadn't any previous convictions in this country but had a record of 92 previous convictions in Wales, 13 of which were for drugs offence.
The most serious was his last conviction was a 12 year jail sentence imposed in July 16 for possession of cocaine with the intention of selling or supplying to others. Sgt. Godfrey said he was not aware of any warrant for Purse's extradition back to the UK but the British police were seeking his return.
Defence barrister Philip Sheehan SC said the cannabis plants found at his client's address were in various stages of maturity and in reality some of them were worthless. Mr Humphries responded that this was reflected in the valuation of the plants outlined to the court.
Mr Sheehan submitted a letter of apology written by his client to the court. He said Purse was in custody in relation to this case since May last year and his behaviour in prison had been positive.
He outlined that his client lived in Ireland for four to five years before he was arrested and was in Ireland when he was sentenced in the UK to 12 years imprisonment. He had a partner in the UK and three children.
The senior counsel argued that Judge Teehan should take into account the 12 year jail term his client faced in the UK when deciding what should be the proportionate sentence for these Irish offences.
If he were to end up serving a sentence approaching 20 years, people who committed much graver crimes could be serving a shorter sentence than him. He submitted that this would be unfair and the court must be fair.
Mr Sheehan said the offences committed by Purse were at the lower end of the scale of controlled drugs offences. He urged Judge Teehan to take into account his client's early guilty plea and his co-operation with the garda investigation.
Imposing sentence, Judge Teehan said offences committed by Purse were at the top of the middle range of such offences and the aggravating factors were the substantial quantity of cannabis Purse was caught in possession of and the enormous number of previous convictions he accumulated in another jurisdiction, including a substantial number for drug offences.
The most recent conviction for which he received a 12 year term showed he was involved in the nefarious drugs trade for some time. On top of this, he gave a false name when a garda approached him.
Taking these factors and the mitigating factors outlined by Mr Sheehan into account and the fact he was also facing a lengthy jail sentence in the UK, he imposed a five year jail term for possessing cannabis with the intention of selling or supplying it to others and a concurrent four year term for cultivating cannabis plants. A third offence of possessing cannabis offence was marked proven and taken into account.
He agreed to backdate the commencement of the sentence to May 3 last year and ordered the destruction of the cannabis and other drugs related paraphernalia found at Purse's Rossadrehid address.