A man has been jailed for growing marijuana in an underground bunker.
A man has been jailed for growing marijuana in an underground bunker.

Drug bunker under neighbours’ property leads to jail time

A NORTHERN Rivers man who cultivated marijuana in a bunker underneath his neighbours’ yard has been sentenced.

Fernvale man Paul Ian Harris, 51, was due to face trial on the allegation of cultivating a commercial quantity of a prohibited plant, but he pleaded guilty before a jury was due to be empanelled in October.

The matter then went before a hearing to dispute details of his offending.

In this hearing, the defence and prosecution were at odds about the extent of involvement of Harris’ neighbours, who are not facing any criminal charges.

Judge Dina Yehia found Harris was the primary person responsible for the drugs.

Harris had previously been convicted and imprisoned for a similar operation on his own Cadaga Rd property in 2010.

This involved a hydroponic operation inside a buried shipping container.

Some time after a retired couple moved in next door, Harris spoke to them about the shipping container that was already buried on their own property.

The court earlier this year heard they consented to the bunker being used for growing marijuana, although their part in this effort was disputed.

Police found the bunker, containing 68 plants and associated equipment, on April 5 last year.

If the matter had gone to trial, the prosecution had intended to rely on “tendency evidence”, drawing upon evidence of Harris’ knowledge of cultivation and ability to establish such an operation.

Before Nowra District Court on Monday, Harris was sentenced to a prison term of three years and two months.

The full term will expire on February 14, 2023 and he will first be eligible for parole on July 14, 2021.

For his plea of guilty, Judge Yehia awarded him a 10 per cent sentencing discount.

Harris had been on bail in the lead-up to his sentencing.