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WATCH: Trio sentenced for $100,000 Hidden Valley drug bust

CLOSE to 19kgs of "bush cannabis" worth $100,000 found in thick scrub at a Hidden Valley property in May last year landed three people in Rockhampton District Court on Monday.

William Harry Frederick Pratt, 41 James Fitzroy Hutton, 48 and Olivia Kate Kerris, 24 were caught "red handed" and each pleaded guilty to one count of producing dangerous drugs with an aggravating feature after the May 2015 search warrant.

The court heard the stash was a "chance discovery", "virtually untraceable" and otherwise would have gone undetected but for police attending the property to search for unlawful weapons.

Crown prosecutor Megan Howard told the court police found a total of eight buckets sealed with duct tape in the scrub, containing a total of 28 packets of cannabis weighing 480g each.

She told the court each packet had a street value of up to $2800 with the total value around the "$100,000 mark".

Police also found a number of tarps in the main dwelling laid with cannabis in the process of being stripped.

The court heard there were three pairs of secateurs by the tarps, indicating each defendant was involved in the stripping process, along with $5000 cash in a hutch on the verandah.

Ms Howard said there was no suggestion the three defendants grew the cannabis.

"There was a substantial crop tended to somewhere by someone which was virtually undetectable but for police attending the house that day," she said.

"It can be said to be a commercial production, there is a significant amount of cannabis packaged in one pound lots.

"We are talking wholesale amounts."

She told the court Hutton, who owned the property, was a principal offender while Pratt, who police saw walking from the scrub, and Kerris, a cleaner at the property who was hiding under the house at the time of the search, were peripheral offenders.

The court heard Hutton was previously sentenced for producing cannabis in July 2000.

Ms Howard said Hutton actively tried to discourage police from searching the house while he pointed to a shed and said, "last time they found anything it was in there".

Defence lawyer Doug Winning, who represented Hutton and Kerris, said the set-up was not sophisticated.

"People sitting around a tarpaulin clipping cannabis, I fail to see the level of sophistication," he said.

Mr Winning told the court 60 cannabis plants were grown in the Byfield State Forrest and taken to the Hidden Valley property by another person.

He said police caught the trio "red handed".

"The degree of criminality or wickedness is gauged by the significant amount of cannabis involved," he said.

Defence Lawyer Ross Lo Monaco, who represented Pratt, said his client became involved on the day of the search warrant, in exchange "for some cannabis to use himself".

"He basically became involved when he was requested to assist and his only reward was some cannabis," Mr Lo Monaco said.

"He very much was a periphery in this particular enterprise.

"All he was doing was helping to cut some stalks; he really is no more than a helper.

"He had gone off to get some KFC and had only just returned."

Judge Michael Burnett on Tuesday said the three defendants were involved in the offending on different levels.

"Plainly the production was for a criminal purpose and the level of planning highlights the wickedness and criminality involved," he said.

Hutton was sentenced to two years' imprisonment with a parole release date on November 14.

Pratt was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, wholly suspended immediately for an operational period of two years.

Kerris was sentenced to three years probation with no conviction recorded.

Topics:  cannabis, hidden valley, rockhampton district court




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