02 Oct 2022

Ramelton man found not guilty of intent to supply cannabis he was growing

Conrad Neale was found with 29 cannabis plants when Gardaí swooped on his home



A Ramelton man has been found not guilty of the possession of cannabis with the intent to sell or supply the drug.

Conrad Neale, a 44-year-old of Lennon Bank Cottage, was found to have 29 cannabis plants growing in his house when Gardaí swooped.

Neale pleaded guilty to nine charges of the possession of cannabis and morphine and also a charge of the cultivation of cannabis, but pleaded not guilty to possession of a controlled drug, namely cannabis, with the intent to sell or supply.

A jury of seven men and five women at Letterkenny Circuit Court, after one hour and seven minutes of deliberation, found Neale not guilty

Gardai obtained a warrant on October 16, 2018 and carried out a search of Neale’s home at Lennon Bank Cottage, Ramelton.

Gardaí located a wide variety of drugs on the premises, including morphine, MDMA, Tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabis resin and cannabis her.

Officers entered an attic area and discovered two grow tents which were filled with 29 cannabis plants at various stages of maturity.  In a wardrobe, Gardaí found cannabis hanging to dry. They also found cannabis seeds, scales, clear bags, larger brown bags, heat lamps and other paraphernalia associated with the cultivation of cannabus, Some €6,650 in cash was located in a drawer.

Neale admitted possession of all of the items and he pleaded guilty to the possession of drugs for his own personal use. Neale admitted to cultivating cannabis on the premises.

Ms Patricia McLaughin BL, Counsel for the State, said that the quantity of plants and the other items, including the cad, were all ‘indicative that it was done not simply to use himself, but to supply others’.

Garda John Madigan, a Scenes Of Crime Officer, said he photographed the scene and 14 images were shown to the jury and Judge John Aylmer.

Barrister for Neale, Mr Peter Nolan BL, said the quantity was ‘minuscule in relation to commercial grow houses’.

“Is it not the case that commerce operations cultivate hundreds of plants?” Mr Nolan asked. “What we have here is entirely different.”

Mr Nolan said that the grinders which were found at the location were ‘hardly grinders for a large scale operation’. He added: “They are consistent with someone doing this for personal use.”

Detective Garda Enda Jennings said he believed the find to be ‘significant’. The cannabis, weighing 80 grammes, had a street value of an estimated €1,600.

Gardaí presented a number of exhibits to the jury, including two plastic bags containing cannabis seeds, plant material, scales, grinders, a lamp, a bundle of brown and clear plastic bags and two tents which were recovered from the scene. The court heard that €6,650 in cash, which was located at the scene, was in storage in the Superintendent’s safe.

Neale said he accumulated the money over a period of time, the majority of which he had received from his father in relation to some building work at the house. He said he uses cannabis to treat anxiety. He said he was stressed from caring for his parents and that prescription drugs ‘don’t work’ for him’.

Neale’s father, Gordon Neale, who is aged 81, said he retired five years ago and had returned to Ireland. Construction work on an annex - in which Mr Neale senior now lives - began in 2017 and Conrad, Mr Neale senior said, ‘did the lion’s share of the work’. He said he had paid his son up to €6,000 for the work.

Conrad Neale, the court heard, was a carer for both of his parents.

Gordon Neale said he suspected his son was smoking cannabis. He added that no-one visited the house ‘bar the odd friend of Conrad’.Often, his son would retire to his bedroom and Mr Neale senior could detect a strong smell of cannabis.

“I thought that it was normal practice for people of his generation,” he said. His son, Mr Neale added, was saving to buy a van at the time.

Closing the prosecution case, Ms McLaughlin said the amount of cannabis Mr Neale was in possession of ‘was a far cry’ from growing for personal use. It was an operation that was well-planned and well-executed and involved a large amount of cannabis, she said.

“It was done in quite a professional way by someone who clearly knew what he was doing,” Ms McLaughlin said.

The growing of the plants was something that was done very deliberately, knowingly and on a scale that was not for his own use, she said.

Mr Nolan said there was no evidence to convict.

He said the growing operation did not involve any professionalism or expertise and was a ‘joke operation’ for the personal use of Mr Neale, who had admitted using drugs recreationally.

There was a lack of evidence that Mr Neale had been selling drugs and there was no evidence for the evaluation of the drugs. Overall the prosecution had not proved the case, he said.

There was no evidence of selling, offering to sell, or Mr Neale leaving the house to sell.

He said Mr Neal’s phone revealed no unusual activity or evidence of selling drugs. There were no prepackaged deals or evidence of a method of distribution.

Mr Nolan said Mr Neale was fully cooperative and had admitted to nine charges of possession.

It was, he said, a ‘half-baked, three-wheeled case’, with ‘a total lack of evidence’.

Before Judge John Aylmer, the jury found Neale not guilty.

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