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Vietnamese couple brought to Ireland to grow weed get sentences slashed

Vietnamese couple brought to Ireland to grow weed get sentences slashed

A Vietnamese couple brought into the country to cultivate cannabis in a converted industrial unit have had their prison sentences cut on appeal.

Mrs Hong Thi Nguyen (45) and Phuc Nguyen Le (55), both of no fixed abode, had pleaded guilty to the cultivation of more than €1 million worth of cannabis at an industrial unit in Kells Business Park, Co Meath on April 13 2013.

At Trim Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Michael O'Shea sentenced Mrs Hong Thi Nguyen to 10 years imprisonment with the final four-and-a-half suspended while her husband Mr Phuc Nguyen Le was given 10 years imprisonment with the final three suspended.

The Vietnamese couple successfully appealed their sentences todayand the new sentence imposed on Mrs Hong Thi Nguyen meant her time in prison for the offence had effectively been served, the court heard.

Giving background, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said the pair were arrested at an industrial unit in Kells business park which had been converted to provide for the cultivation of cannabis.

Mr Justice Mahon said they were merely workers or “gardeners” and had been brought into the country for that purpose.

They “may not have had absolute freedom to walk away from their involvement,” he said.

The couple had no English, the court heard, and required the assistance of an interpretor for the hearing.

At the unit, 29.5 kilograms of dried out cannabis plants were found worth €590,000 as well as 1,384 cannabis plants at various stages of cultivation. The total potential street value was over €1 million, Mr Justice Mahon said.

While the sentencing judge correctly identified the sophistication of the operation as well as the role of Mr and Mrs Nguyen, Mr Justice Mahon said he failed to take account of the fact they had no role in the setting up, planning and financing of the operation.

The appropriate sentence before mitigation could be considered was “significantly less than ten years in both cases,” Mr Justice Mahon said.

Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, said there was an error in principle in the sentence.

A new sentence of five years imprisonment with the final 12 months suspended was imposed on Mr Nguyen while a new sentence of three-and-a-half years imprisonment with the final six months suspended was imposed on Mrs Nguyen.

Mr Justice Mahon said Mr Nguyen had a relevant previous conviction recorded in the UK in 2007, while Mrs Nguyen had none.

The couple have been in custody since they were arrested on April 13 2013. Mrs Nguyen's new sentence has effectively been served, the court heard.