December 05, 2007

Drug dealer's cash to go to landlord

A landlord will get the $3120 cash the police found at the rented home being used for a commercial cannabis growing operation.

The police found 383 cannabis plants being grown at a rented Centaurus Road address they raided in July.

The cultivator, 46-year-old Steven Jeffrey Fleming, was jailed for three years by Justice Chisholm in the High Court at Christchurch today.

Crown prosecutor Zannah Johnston said the growing operation had damaged the carpet and caused other damage at the house.

Defence counsel Margaret Sewell said Fleming accepted the money would be forfeited to the crown.

Justice Chisholm said he would take a practical approach and order that it be paid to the landlord. It was a “practical and sensible suggestion” from the crown.

Fleming was for sentence after pleading guilty to cultivating cannabis, possession of cannabis for supply, possession of cultivation equipment, and possession of the class B drug hashish.

Miss Sewell agreed that Fleming’s cultivation had to be regarded as a commercial operation. He had carried it out to get the money to pay off a $30,000 Visa bill.

The police estimated that a single harvest of the plants being grown would have netted $38,000 profit.

She said they had taken his five cellphones and his bank records and had found no evidence to show the scale of the operation was any larger than that.

Justice Chisholm said the police found cannabis growing in two bedrooms at the house, at three different stages of growth, as well as 20.3g of hashish.

There was special lighting and timers, liners for the cannabis, and scales.

Fleming was an Australian who had lived for quite a few years in New Zealand.

He was jailed in Australia for 18 months in 1981 for possession for sale of a dangerous drug.

In New Zealand he had convictions for possession of hashish in 2004, and he was fined for possession of cannabis and a pipe this year.

He acknowledged Fleming’s guilty plea, but he said the offending involved a large number of plants and was a sophisticated operation.