Solicitor says grow-house man a ‘victim’
Judge to rule on whether Chinese man can be released pending investigation
A Chinese man found in a cannabis grow-house is a clear victim of human trafficking, it was argued
A man found in a cannabis grow-house should be released from prison because he is a clear victim of human trafficking, it has been argued in the High Court.
The 36-year-old son of a peasant farmer from Fu Jian province in China has been in custody since being found in a building at Henrietta Place, Dublin, in November 2012, which had been turned into a grow house with an estimated €1 million worth of cannabis.
He is awaiting trial in the Circuit Court on a charge of having cannabis for supply, which he denies. Because of the quantity involved, the offence carries a mandatory 10- year sentence.
Fergal Kavanagh SC, defending, said his client had already spent a year and half in custody because he had no papers and could not raise bail. If found guilty, he faced the “terror of another eight years” in prison despite being imprisoned in the grow-house by traffickers as a “low-level gardener”.
Mr Kavanagh said this case had prompted a review of 87 grow-house cases where people involved may have been jailed or deported when they were victims of human trafficking. His client should be released pending a full investigation into his case.
It is claimed he was found by gardaí in the grow-house in “deplorable conditions” having been effectively kept prisoner to look after the cannabis plants because his father in China owed a €20,000 debt to a trafficker, known as a “snakehead”.
The State argues that when he was found in the grow- house, he was free to come and go, had internet access and had an iPhone 4 with photos of him at various locations.
Det Chief Supt John O’Driscoll, head of the Garda National Immigration Bureau, said while he accepted there had been cases outside this jurisdiction of people who were imprisoned in grow-houses by traffickers, he did not believe this was one of them.
Through an interpreter, the man told the court that while he had pleaded guilty to cultivation, he was not aware the plants were cannabis until gardaí told him that. He had believed they were tea plants, the court was previously told.
Mr Justice Gerard Hogan said he would give his decision on April 28th.