Pubdate: Wed, 01 May 2013
Source: Timaru Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2013 Timaru Herald


The owner of the Switched On Gardener chain of hydroponic stores has 
been sentenced to four years and three months in prison.

Judge Andree Wiltens refused the option of home detention as he 
sentenced Michael Quinlan in the Auckland District Court yesterday.

General manager Peter Bennett, 43, was also sentenced, receiving a 
prison term of three years and nine months.

Two women broke down in tears as the sentence was read out to the 
packed courtroom.

The men were found guilty in December of supplying equipment for 
cultivating cannabis, but both were acquitted of being part of an 
organised criminal group.

Stoneware 91, the trading name for Switched on Gardener, and 
Hydroponic Wholesalers were fined $125,000 each.

Judge Wiltens said Switched on Gardener operated "close to the edge" 
as a significant proportion of its business activity was cannabis-related.

"What was going on was prevalent but also well known by everyone."

Staff were known to smoke cannabis at work stocktakes, the car number 
plate read "Bud1" and the company brand was a leaf, he said.

"While on its own this is not illegal, putting that facts together, 
with the way the company conducted its business, it simply added to 
the companies' overall picture."

The judge said Quinlan was culpable, whether he was aware of the 
criminal activity or simply turned a blind eye to it.

"There was an obligation on you. You had a responsibility because of 
your position. You had a ability to do something about it, but you 
failed to do it."

He dismissed the defence's argument that Bennett was unaware of the 
criminal activity.

"The suggestion he didn't know what was happening beggars belief," he said.
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