The Ballarat Courier reports
A Vietnamese man who was hired to clean an Alfredton property after a cannabis crop had been harvested has admitted to growing the plants.
Ha Nam Vu, 34, pleaded guilty on Friday to one count of cultivating cannabis after Ballarat police detectives located hydroponic equipment at the Chase Boulevard house on January 14.
Sergeant Ivan Blomeley told the Ballarat Magistrates Court detectives did not find any cannabis plants growing at the property, but they located hydroponic equipment and an electrical bypass in the property’s garage.
He said Vu was seen leaving the address after police observed it for two hours. The 34-year-old, who was on a spouse visa, was arrested in a nearby street.
Sergeant Blomeley said data from Vu’s mobile phone showed a photo of cannabis being weighed, text messages relating to dry cannabis and a text message to the property’s ratepayer about setting up a water account.
Vu told police he was aware of the property in November 2018, and he was paid $900 to clean the house.
“Police say he was actively involved in the cultivating of cannabis at the address,” Sergeant Blomeley said.
Defence lawyer Chen Yang said his client’s role in the cannabis operation was low, with the evidence being he was seen at the property for less than two hours.
“The role is someone cleaning up after the crop has been harvested,” Mr Yang said.
But magistrate Ron Saines would not accept the defence lawyer’s submission because Vu had pleaded guilty to cultivating cannabis.
He said the plea constituted growing cannabis or acting as an accessory but he would consider Vu’s involvement as low level.
The court was told Vu came to Australia in 2013 on a spouse visa to look after his wife at the time. He is applying for a protected visa, which would involve a police check, and put his Australian residency in doubt.
Mr Yang said burden placed on Vu while in prison should be taken into account in the sentence.
“He has no family here. The only person who has visited him in prison is his girlfriend who is in court today,” he said.
He urged the court to consider a community corrections order and time already served in custody.
The magistrate said he was satisfied Vu engaged in growing cannabis over almost two months.
“I have no doubt that having regard to the cannabis photographs on your phone that your engagement produced a crop of cannabis for commercial gain,” Mr Saines said.
“The quality and value of that crop is not known. I can’t speculate as to what it was but I have no doubt that it was distributed in our community.
“The court must emphasise denunciation and deterrence such that imprisonment must be imposed.”
Vu was sentenced to three months in jail with 46 days declared already served. If he did not plead guilty, Mr Saines said he would have sentenced him to six months in jail.
He said he was not satisfied a CCO was necessary for Vu’s continued rehabilitation.