4 Dec 2012

Jury has question in cannabis case

11:07 pm on 4 December 2012

A jury considering the fate of five businessmen accused of operating a one-stop-shop for cannabis equipment has asked whether the men had to know illegal activity was taking place, for them to be convicted.

Michael Quinlan, Peter Bennett, Andrew Mai, Paul Barlow and Ricky Cochrane are on trial at Auckland District Court accused of participating in an organised criminal group and selling equipment to grow cannabis.

The five men hold various management positions in retail chain Switched on Gardener.

The jury, which began deliberating on Monday afternoon, asked Judge Gus Andree Wiltens whether the managers had to have known the equipment was being sold for making cannabis.

The judge reminded the jury the Crown says the managers are liable for the actions of the staff.

He told the jury it could read into that answer, how it wants.

In summing up the case on Monday, the judge told the jury not to allow their personal opinions on cannabis laws get in their way of delivering verdicts on the 108 charges faced by the defendants and the company.

He said their verdicts must be based on current New Zealand legislation, not what they wanted the law to be.

During the nine-week trial, the jury has heard conversations secretly recorded by undercover police officers, which the Crown said proved Switched on Gardener was a one-stop cannabis equipment retailer.

The defence says the business was not a criminal enterprise, and while staff may have been acting illegally, the managers were not.