Underground shipping container hid man's cannabis plants
A NORTHERN Rivers man has pleaded guilty to growing cannabis the morning his trial was set to begin.
Paul Ian Harris, 50, appeared in the dock of Lismore District Court yesterday morning.
The Fernvale man had been charged with cultivating a prohibited drug by enhanced indoor means.
The court heard this involved 68 cannabis plants, which constituted commercial quantity of the drug, which Harris had grown in an underground shipping container at a Fernvale property, south of Murwillumbah, last April.
Before Harris was formally arraigned and entered a guilty plea, the court heard Judge Dina Yehia had previously granted the Crown prosecutor's application to tender "tendency evidence" as part of the trial.
The court heard this was to include details about a prior conviction involving similar circumstances of underground cannabis cultivation.
Defence barrister Ben Cochrane told the court the parties did not, however, agree about Harris' exact role in the offending.
The Crown prosecutor, meanwhile, applied for Harris to be remanded in custody amid allegations he'd approached two witnesses, contrary to his bail conditions.
"It's suggested that the accused had asked them not to give any evidence against him," he said.
Mr Cochrane said his client agreed he'd spoken to the witnesses, but disputed their allegations he'd tried to influence their evidence.
He said Harris otherwise had a good bail record, with no breaches recorded while he was on bail for a prior matter between March 2010 and August 2012.
Judge Yehia set the matter down for a hearing to resolve the disputed version of events tomorrow.
She formally addressed the full jury panel and dismissed them after Harris entered his guilty plea.