Two people charged in connection with a growhouse in Longford town appeared before last week’s sitting of Longford Circuit Court where one will be monitored by the court for the next 12 months and the other was handed a suspended prison sentence.
Gabriele Vysnaiauskaite (23) with an address in the UK and Aivaras Blekahas (30), now living in Co Westmeath appeared before Judge Keenan Johnson charged with the offence at Dun Darragh, Longford on April 5, 2016.
Outlining the evidence to the court, Garda Cunniffe said that he entered the home where both defendants lived on foot of a search warrant on the date in question.
The Garda added, “On arrival at the premises I got a strong smell of cannabis”.
Meanwhile, the court heard that Garda Foley and Garda Scanlon who accompanied Garda Cunniffe made their way to the upstairs of the house, while he entered the kitchen area with Ms Vysnaiauskaite, “the lady of the house”.
“Aivaras Blekahas was there and told me that he lived in the house,” Garda Cunniffe continued.
“There was evidence upstairs that the house was being used for the harvesting and cultivation of cannabis plants.”
The court then heard that cannabis seedlings were also discovered and was “good quality cannabis” in jars.
The value of the discovery, the court heard was approximately €120,000 and over €2,000 in cash was also found at the property.
Garda Cunniffe told the court that after investigating the matter further, he discovered that the letting agreement for the property was signed by both defendants, and the landlord.
In mitigation, Counsel for Mr Blekahas, Ms Dara Foynes said her client had a leg amputated in 2010 after suffering “a very serious assault”.
“Mr Blekahas and Ms Vysnaiauskaite were in a relationship at the time and it was this that brought them to Ireland in the first instance,” she continued, before pointing out that they had friends living in Co Westmeath who encouraged them to move to this country.
“Mr Blekahas has taken prime responsibility for the cannabis growth.”
Meanwhile, in his direct evidence to the court, Mr Blekahas said he had been growing the cannabis for his own personal use because of the pain he now suffered as a direct result of the assault.
“In 2010 I was trying to protect a girl from a drunk person and he stabbed me several times with a knife,” the defendant continued.
“I lost my leg as a result.”
The court then heard that Mr Blekahas was very well educated, had qualified as an accountant and secured a very good job thereafter.
He met Ms Vysnaiauskaite, he added, and the couple moved to the UK.
“I left a good job and everything we had to come to Ireland,” he said.
“There was no jobs when we got here.”
The court was told that Mr Blekahas started taking cannabis after the assault.
“There is no medication that helps with the pain like cannabis does,” he told Judge Johnson.
“I came here and got greedy; I decided to grow it myself and now I am in big trouble.
“I really apologise for my crime; I did it for myself, for my pains.”
Delivering judgement in the case, Judge Johnson said it was clear to the court that Mr Blekahas had grown the cannabis for his own personal use because of the pain he suffered.
The Judge also said he was impressed by the defendant’s evidence.
“I took him to be a reasonably decent individual; he is in constant pain and did find cannabis to be a relief from that,” the Judge continued.
“However the law is clear here and people are not allowed to grow cannabis in this country.
“It is also clear that the house was used by both parties and that both individuals have no previous convictions.
“This appears to be a misguided endeavour by Mr Blekahas.”
The Judge subsequently sentenced Mr Blekahas to 18 months in prison but suspended it for five years on the grounds he keep the peace and be of good behavior.
Judge Johnson then adjourned Ms Vysnaiauskaite’s case for one year and pointed out that if she did not come to the adverse notice of the Gardaí in the interim, he would dismiss the case against her.