There may be an element of people trafficking in the case where a 32-year-old Vietnamese woman is charged with cultivating cannabis at luxury lakeside home, Tinarana House.
At Ennis District Court today, solicitor for Thuy Thi Nguyen, John Casey made the comment when requesting that the legal aid cert be extended to allow the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland (MRCI) provide support to his client.
In the case, Ms Thi Nguyen of no fixed abode is charged in connection with the discovery of an industrial-sized cannabis grow house at the Victorian mansion on the shores of Lough Derg near Killaloe in east Clare in May.
More than 500 cannabis plants at various growth stages were found at the 16-bedroomed property on May 31 last and initial Garda estimates put a street value of €900,000 on the plants.
Judge Marie Keane told the court today that the accused in the case “is a vulnerable person”.
Ms Thi Nguyen has been remanded in custody at the female unit of Limerick prison since her first appearance in court on June 2. No application for bail has been made.
Solicitor for Ms Thi Nguyen, John Casey, told the court: “Ms Thi Nguyen is a foreign national. She has little or no English. She is finding it very difficult.”
“It is a relatively new return and I think sometimes certain cases should take precedence. I would ask that the State be left in no doubt about the need to get this case moving.”
Mr Casey said that the Limerick-based Migrants Rights Centre Ireland “want to get involved to help my client and what happens after her case is heard”.
Mr Casey said that he told the Migrants Rights Centre Ireland that fees are an issue that would have to be approved by the Legal Aid Board “and they have provided me with a submission which appears to be a tad expensive”.
In response, Judge Keane said that she would grant Mr Casey liberty to apply for that aspect of the legal aid application when the directions are back from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
She said: “There would have to be a level of assistance given to a person facing this kind of charge.”
Mr Casey said that Ms Thi Nguyen now has phone numbers of family to allow contact with them “and that has been of some comfort to her”.
Sgt Aiden Lonergan of Ennis Garda Station told the court that Gardaí have sent on the file to the State Solicitor.
Sgt Lonergan requested that Ms Thi Nguyen be remanded in custody to September 11 and this was granted by Judge Keane
Judge Keane asked that the DPP provide a report to the court on progress in the case.
The operation, which resulted in the arrest of Ms Thi Nguyen and the discovery of the drugs, involved members of the Clare Divisional Drugs Unit, local uniform and plainclothes Gardaí, the Western Region Armed Support Unit and the Cork Garda Dog Unit including the unit’s dog, Laser.
At Ms Nguyen’s first court appearance in June, Det. Garda Seamus Doyle of Kildare Garda Station told that when Ms Nguyen was charged with the offence, she replied: “I feel upset and scared because they forced me to do it.”
Ms Nguyen is charged with cultivating without a licence cannabis plants at Tinarana House on May 31 last contrary to Section 17 of the Mis-use of Drugs Act.