News

Man accused of growing cannabis in Rochester bailed

By Ivy Jensen

A MAN charged over the cultivation of more than 200 cannabis plants in Rochester has been granted bail.

St Albans man Anh Tran, 25, applied for bail in the Supreme Court on Thursday, July 30, ACM reported.

Detectives raided a Railway Rd address on June 16, where they found an established hydroponic cannabis set-up inside the house.

Tran, charged with cultivating a commercial quantity of cannabis, had to show exceptional circumstances to be released from custody.

β€œIn my submission, this is a case whereby the pandemic and the steps taken to address the pandemic give rise to exceptional circumstances,” defence counsel Paul Smallwood said.

Mr Smallwood said it would take years for Mr Tran's matter to reach trial, as the pandemic had stopped jury trials, according to ACM.

He said there was a risk Tran could spend longer in custody waiting for his matter to go to trial, than he would spend in prison if found guilty.

Mr Smallwood told the court there was no evidence that put Tran at the property before his arrest, which was relevant to police allegations he had stolen electricity to use there, and no allegations Tran took the cannabis plants or the hydroponic equipment to the property.

Mr Smallwood said there was also nothing putting Tran in each of the rooms and the shed at the property, which was central to whether the prosecution could prove he knew the extent of the operation.

He said the burden of being in custody for someone on remand was greater now because of coronavirus.

He said his client did not pose an unacceptable risk and had strong ties to the community, with a partner and baby.

Tran's partner told the court he had lived with her in St Albans before his arrest and would return there if bailed.

Tran had no prior convictions and no other charges pending.

An associate also offered a $70,000 surety on her house to secure Tran's bail.

Prosecutor Danielle Guesdon said police allegedly found written instructions on cultivation in Tran's wallet, and instructions written in Vietnamese inside the house.

She said of the 232 cannabis plants at the property, 184 were in the house.

Ms Guesdon said call records allegedly put Tran in Rochester seven times in June before his arrest, amounting to a visit every couple of days.

While there would be a delay in the case reaching trial, she said a matter with an accused person in custody would be given some priority, and Tran faced years rather than months in prison if found guilty.

The prosecution told the court it feared the Vietnamese national could flee Victoria.

Justice Rita Incerti found Tran had established exceptional circumstances, as he faced delays not seen in the courts before, and it would be years before his matter resolved.

Justice Incerti said it was inevitable prisons would continue to face lockdowns and the stress of imprisonment would likely increase, ACM reported.

She said it was significant Tran had no criminal history and there was no evidence he posed a flight risk.

She granted bail on a $70,000 surety and on the conditions he had a nightly curfew and reported to police three times a week.

Tran must also not leave Victoria or attend any points of international departure.

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