A Vietnamese man who was caught cultivating over 200 cannabis plants has been spared jail time on the condition that he leave Ireland.
Truc Duy Pham (27), who is originally from Vietnam, pleaded guilty to the possession and cultivation of cannabis plants worth over €100,000.
The Circuit Court heard that on August 22 of 2018 gardaí searched a home at Glynndale Court, Williamstown on the basis of info they received, where the defendant was living, and found 214 cannabis plants at various stages of growth.
Gardaí found Truc Duy Pham in a taxi just outside Williamstown which was taking him to the nearest train station.
When questioned by gardaí he admitted to residing at the home in question and caring for the plants.
After his arrest the gardaí initiated the process to begin deporting Duy Pham who has been in custody since August 24 of last year.
According to the evidence presented to the Circuit Court, not a lot is known about the defendant.
He is believed to have only been in Ireland for a short while before his arrest. He told gardaí that he had been recruited by a gang while living in England.
The defence said that he was placed in the house, given food, and told to look after the cannabis plants, with promises that he would be paid at a later date.
“He was recruited by an organised gang. All of them have scarpered and left him to face this”.
Gardaí accepted that Duy Pham played a relatively minor role in this operation, and didn’t have the “trappings of wealth”
Judge Rory McCabe said that an appropriate sentence for this cultivation of cannabis was four years in prison due to the large volume of drugs, but accepting the defendant’s small role in the operation.
However he agreed to suspend the sentence on the condition that Duy Pham leave Ireland fortwith, and not return to the Republic or Northern Ireland for five years.
There was some question about whether the Circuit Court had the legal ability to make such a request about Northern Ireland.
Judge McCabe said that his concern was that “for the moment there is a seamless border” between the North and the Republic.
It was agreed that the defendant could give an undertaking not to do so as a condition of his suspended sentence.
When his travel arrangements are made he will be escorted to his point of exit by officials from Castlerea prison.