13 Aug 2015

Cannabis cases different, lawyer says

8:14 pm on 13 August 2015

Two Northland women convicted of cannabis offences were punished differently by the courts because their cases were different, not because the courts are unfair, a Whangarei lawyer says.

A Kaikohe mother-of-three Kelly Van Gaalen has been sentenced to two years' prison after police found 684 grams of dried cannabis under her bed.

Northland cannabis campaigner Maki Herbert said she was given home detention for cultivating 153 plants for supply, and the penalties were inconsistent.

But Herbert's lawyer, Kelly Ellis, said Van Gaalen fought the charge at a jury trial while Herbert owned up and showed remorse.

That allowed the judge to give her credits for an early guilty plea, remorse and rehabilitation efforts, reducing the minimum two-year sentence.

Ms Ellis said anyone caught with more than 28 grams of cannabis must prove it was not for supply, and Van Gaalen failed to convince the jury.

Judges in the north did not like sending people to prison for cannabis offences but in Van Gaalen's case, the judge was left with little choice.

Van Gaalen is appealing against her conviction and sentence but has been denied bail.

The Kaikohe community is rallying behind her family, helping out with odd jobs around their home.

The 38-year-old mother of three was named as a Local Hero in last year's New Zealander of the Year award for her community work.

Kaikohe Business Association president Steven Sangster said Mrs Van Gaalen's husband and children were bearing the brunt of her sentence.