Man loses appeal against sentence for cultivating cannabis beneath pig shed in Carlow

Gardaí valued the crop at €32,000.

 Ruaidhrí Giblin

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Ruaidhrí Giblin

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news@carlowlive.ie

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Court of Appeal

A “committed” cannabis grower has lost an appeal against a sentence for cultivating more than 100 plants beneath a pig shed. 

Krzysztof Wojtalski (37), with an address at Hollyview, Newtown, Carlow, was found guilty by a jury of cultivation and possession of cannabis for supply at his address in the county on April 16, 2015. 

Laywers for Wojtalski, who had pleaded not guilty to the charges, told Carlow Circuit Criminal Court that their client was “committed” to “what he sees as the benefits” of cannabis and wasn’t going to “change his mind” or his “lifestyle”.

In sentencing him to four years imprisonment, the Circuit Court judge said Wojtalski knew what he was doing and knew it was illegal. 

He lost an appeal against the severity of his sentence on Monday with the Court of Appeal holding that his four-year sentence was within the range available. 

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham said gardaí searched his property on foot of a warrant and found an “elaborate bunker” under a pig shed. 

He said 30 mature cannabis plants and 115 immature plants were being cultivated. Gardaí valued the crop at €32,000. 

The question of how valuation should be approached was a matter of some controversy at trial. Wojtalski claimed the plants were hemp, not cannabis, and were for his personal use. 

Mr Justice Birmingham said Wojtalski was described as somebody who had an “attachment” to cannabis, and this combined with his interest in horticulture.

He said it was a serious offence and a “striking feature” of the case was the fact that Wojtalski had been before the Irish courts on two previous occasions for similar offences.

On each occasion, he had been given a suspended sentence, but that did not “dissuade” Wojtalski from further offending. He had also previously offended in relation to drugs in Poland, the judge said.

The sentencing judge picked five years as the headline sentence before reducing this to four to account for a skin condition Wojtalski had.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the reduction of one year from the starting point was enough to reflect the mitigating factors that were present in Wojtalski’s favour. 

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice John Edwards and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, said the sentence imposed fell within the range available and dismissed the appeal.