Limavady drugs accused refused bail

Two men have appeared in court accused of cultivating cannabis plants with an estimated street value of £106,000.

Friday, 18th March 2016, 12:03 pm
Updated Friday, 18th March 2016, 1:07 pm

Joseph Hughes, (46), of Rathbeg Crescent, and 53-year-old Joseph McGuigan, of Robertson Crescent, are jointly charged with cultivating cannabis on March 16.

They are further charged with possessing the class B drug with intent to supply and simple possession of cannabis.

An investigating officer told Derry Magistrates Court she believed she could connect both defendants to the charges.

The court heard allegations that the defendants were arrested following a ‘pro-active investigation’ into an organised crime branch operating in Limavady.

A property in Linenhall Street, four doors away from the local courthouse, was searched and police found a ‘sophisticated’ growing house.

The court heard allegations that three bedrooms had been converted and contained ‘substantial’ cannabis plants. A fourth bedroom was said to be a ‘seeding room’.

In total it is alleged police seized 212 cannabis plants with an estimated street value of £106,000.

The defendants were allegedly connected to the property as a result of 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 Linenhall Street house.

It is alleged as they were arrested McGuigan shouted to his co-accused ‘Joe just tell them we were fixing the washing machine’.

The court heard the vehicle was searched and it is alleged a set of keys to the house were found.

It is further alleged police found buckets similar to ones found in the house.

Opposing bail, the investigating officer said police suspect both defendants are ‘principal members of an organised crime gang’ involved in cultivating and supplying cannabis.

She said the seizure of the plants has led to a ‘significant loss’ and police would be 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.

Keith Kyle, defence solicitor for Hughes, said his client denies the offences.

He said the case against the 46-year-old is ‘circumstantial’ and is likely to be delayed because of forensic investigations.

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

Nicki Rountree, defending McGuigan, said her client is the main carer for his teenage son.

She added if the 53-year-old is remanded ‘he has no idea who will take over 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.