Bail refused to men accused of growing cannabis plants

The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.
The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.

Two men have appeared at Londonderry Magistrates Court accused of cultivating cannabis plants with a street value of £106,000.

Joseph Hughes (46), of Rathbeg Crescent, and Joseph McGuigan (53), of Robertson Crescent, are jointly charged with cultivating cannabis on March 16, as well as possessing the class B drug with intent to supply and possession of cannabis.

An investigating officer said she believed she could connect the defendants to the charges.

The court heard the pair were arrested following an investigation into an organised crime branch operating in Limavady. A property in Linenhall Street, four doors from the courthouse, was searched and police found a sophisticated growing house in which three bedrooms had been converted and contained substantial cannabis plants. A fourth bedroom was said to be a seeding room. Police seized 212 cannabis plants with an estimated street value of £106,000.

The defendants were connected to the property through surveillance. The investigating officer told the court that both men had been seen in close proximity to the address and exiting the back of the property. They were arrested in a vehicle near the house.

During arrest McGuigan shouted to his co-accused “Joe just tell them we were fixing the washing machine”.

The court heard the vehicle was searched and a set of keys to the house were found and police found buckets similar to those found in the house.

Opposing bail, the investigating officer said police suspect both defendants were principal members of an organised crime gang involved in cultivating and supplying cannabis. She said police were concerned the defendants would commit further offences to recoup their losses.

The officer added the growing house was found in a residential area and this could pose dangers to the public because the electricity supply was tampered with.

Solicitor Keith Kyle, for Hughes, said his client denied the offences. He said the case against the 46-year-old was circumstantial and likely to be delayed because of forensic investigations.

The solicitor told the court that the risk of further offences could be managed by bail conditions.

Nicki Rountree, who appeared for McGuigan, said her client was the main carer for a teenage son.

She told the court if her client was remanded he had no idea who would take over caring for the teenager and social services may have to become involved.

Deputy District Judge Noel Dunlop refused bail for fear of further offences.

Hughes and McGuigan were remanded in custody to appear in court again via videolink on April 14.