News

Man jailed for anti-abortion pot crop

The crop of 22,000 plants found at Inglewood, near Warwick, in 2008.
The crop of 22,000 plants found at Inglewood, near Warwick, in 2008. Supplied

A FATHER of nine children who claimed he planted one of Australia's largest marijuana crops to fund a nation-wide media campaign against abortion has been jailed for 13 years.

Michael Bennett Gardner Snr was the central figure in a large-scale "sophisticated and elaborate commercial venture" at Inglewood, in the southern Darling Downs, 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.

Brisbane Supreme Court heard he spent a lot of money on infrastructure such as sheds, tractors, sprinklers and 8km of poly piping to set up the operation.

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

He said Gardner had an arsenal of weapons including 10,000 rounds of live ammunition to protect his crops.

Mr Lehane said Gardner was producing marijuana on an "heroic scale" with eight fields of the drug ranging from 10m long by 15m wide to 30m by 300m.

He said 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.

The black market value of what was left amounted to almost $70 million.

The court heard Gardner was still trafficking from inside jail, asking his daughter to sell a recent harvest for $280,000.

Justice Roslyn Atkinson said Gardner was involved in producing, packaging and selling the drug for more than four years.

She said Gardner's submissions his actions were "nothing" compared to "the mass slaughter of the unborn" through abortion was misguided.

"Research, particularly the use of cannabis by the vulnerable and the young, has shown our view of cannabis as a relatively harmless drug was misplaced," she said.

"This was an enormous production and trafficking in cannabis controlled and operated by one man.

"Its moral culpability is increased by his involvement of young family members in this criminal enterprise including his young stepchildren.

"The corrupting influence of involving children in activity of that age is well known."

Barrister Greg McGuire said his client 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 he had "no regrets" and he intended to grow as much cannabis "as I possibly could" for his campaign.

"To me it is highly chimerical to live in a culture that permits the killing of its children on a mass scale," he said.

"To me it is the same principle the Nazi regime did to Jewish and other minority groups in the Second World War.

"A person growing cannabis, and peacefully I might add .... in no way comes anywhere near the gravity of the massive slaughter of the unborn of this nation that goes on, on a daily basis.

"I think it is dreadful that I live in such a culture. I think for the law to allow such a thing is an abomination.

"I regard abortion clinics organised gangs of abortion racketeers."

Gardner, who has already served 1423 days in custody, must serve at least 80% of his sentence.

Topics:  abortion jail marijuana



ROAD CRASH: Man fractures arm after motorcycle accident

Queensland Ambulance Service on scene of an accident.  Photo Brenda Strong / The Observer

The man was transported to Maryborough Hospital

OUR SAY: Get along to our region's newest festival

Fraser Pop - pop culture festival at Maryborough High School. Dr Who fan Isabeau Demelt with a life size Tardis built in the school's woodwork shop.

Everyone needs to get along to this great event.

Meet the travel nurses who are living the dream

Travelling nurses Rachel Sullivan and Samuel Martin.

The couple started a blok to record their experiences.

Local Partners

Zumba for kids to start this month in Hervey Bay

Mother-of-three and dance instructor Peta Whitney knows the cost of raising a family and wants to help Hervey Bay families keep active on a budget.


Working class? Man, Gympie's got the show for you

Jimmy Barnes

Aussie rock icons coming to Gympie for 150th celebrations.

Tables turn as rescue crew takes on gruelling mountain

EPIC CHALLENGE: Hundreds of runners will tackle the 4.2km run from the heart of Pomona to the top of Mt Cooroora and back on Sunday.

They are usually the people coming to the rescue of adventurers

Artists to hit the stage for Childers Festival

LIVE LINE-UP: Mzaza will hit the stage at the Childers Festival next weekend, along with many other cultural performers.

Array of cultural performances on show next weekend

FINAL PHONE CALL: Princes’ regret over last words to Diana

ON THE night of August 30, 1997, a then-15-year-old Prince William and 12-year-old Prince Harry received a phone call from their mother Princess Diana.

OPINION: Splendour reached peak glitter

Courtney Smoulden and Dylan Barker sporting some of the extensive glitter available at Splendour in the Grass 2017 near Byron Bay.

2017 is, officially, the year of Splendour in the Glitter

Karl Stefanovic breaks his silence on divorce, new love

Karl poses for Stellar’s July 23 issue. Picture: Steven Chee Source:Stellar Magazine

Stefanovic on his marriage breakdown, new girlfriend

What's on the small screen this week

Matty J and Osher Gunsberg in a scene from The Bachelor.

WINNERS will be crowned on MasterChef and Australian Ninja Warrior.

Beauty blogger’s horribly racist product review

Popular beauty blogger run off the internet for racist comment

Outrage as Ninja Warrior cuts Australia's fittest man

Adelaide’s James Newbury was mysteriously cut from the Ninja Warrior broadcast.

Australia's fittest man wasn’t good enough for Ninja Warrior.

Financial scandal destroys alternative community

Families who gave thousands to be a part of an alternative community at Mt Burrell, west of Murwillumbah, are now trying to recover their investment. Picture: Jamie Hanson

Dream Utopia turns into a nightmare

Mum buys $900,000 apartment for her 8-year-old son

Tania Katsanis beat another couple of homeowners to secure the winning bid.

The apartment was a 'bargain' as the property market bottoms out

Townhouses planned for Nicklin Way site

CBRE's Brendan Robins and Rem Rafter on site at Wurtulla.

Prime 1.5ha Sunshine Coast property set for town homes development

Owner tells of ghostly goings on at old Mackay pub

GHOST STORIES: Several people have died at the Mirani Hotel

Owner says pub is 'definitely haunted'