News

Cannabis grower begs judge to extend his jail sentence

A FATHER of nine, who planted one of Australia's largest marijuana crops, has argued in Queensland's highest court that his 13-year jail sentence was "manifestly inadequate".

Wearing a t-shirt printed front and back with the words "abortion is killing" in red, Michael Bennett Gardner Snr told the Court of Appeal that Queensland did not understand the "full gravity" of his actions which should have attracted at least 20 years behind bars.

Gardner, who must serve 80% of his sentence before he can apply for parole, told the court he would not apply for parole because it would be "unethical".

"My view was that the court was not informed of the full depth of this matter to thus demonstrate the true and full criminality," he said.

"That is why I have applied for increase of the sentence."

The move could be a Queensland first as the Attorney-General ususally makes submissions on inadequate sentences, not the accused person.

Gardner was the central figure in a large-scale "sophisticated and elaborate commercial venture" on a remote former sheep property at Inglewood, from mid-2004 until December, 2008.

The 58-year-old organised family to buy the 2225-hectare property because it had prime grazing land at the front which would "mask the illegal actions" in rocky gullies in the mountainous region behind.

Gardner recruited his young stepchildren, aged 11 to 14, to plant seedlings and tend to thousands of plants when they should have been at school.

He produced eight fields of the drug, ranging from 10m long by 15m wide to 30m by 300m.

All but half of one field had been harvested when police arrested him in mid-2008.

Police still found 22,000 plants and 3.59 tonnes of harvested dried marijuana which was worth $70 million on the black market.

Gardner, an anti-abortion campaigner, had argued at sentence that he believed he recalled his time in his mother's womb and was growing the cannabis to raise funds for a national media campaign against abortions.

Gardner told the Court of Appeal he felt, while the sentencing judge did let him speak for a lengthy period, he was restricted.

"I felt not at liberty to continue," he said.

"I had been heard but I wanted to approach another subject but I was unable to because I realised her Honour did not wish to hear any more."

Justice Cate Holmes told him neither court existed for "you to air your views".

She told Gardner very little of his appeal outline could be considered by the court because it did not explain why his sentence was not in the appropriate sentencing range.

"You might have some luck with the parole board, if you want to convince them you shouldn't get parole," she said.

Gardner replied: "I wouldn't be applying for parole, it would be unethical to do so."

The Court of Appeal reserved its decision.

Topics:  abortion cannabis court of appeal crime drugs jail marijuana



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