AS FOUR men tended to their marijuana crop at Byfield, they had no idea a team of police dressed in camouflage and armed with automatic weapons lay in wait.
Christopher Steven Cash, 26, Trent John Horton, 20, Hayden Lee Roseman, 21, and Patrick Lloyd Swayn, 37, watered and fertilised the 37 plants that were growing in the Byfield State Forest, unaware that all the while they were being watched and photographed.
The men were allowed to leave before the police set about seizing the plants, some quite small and others more than head high.
Each of the men pleaded guilty to a charge of producing a dangerous drug in the Supreme Court at Rockhampton yesterday.
Crown Prosecutor Roger Griffith said police had discovered the crop in June 2010, had set up surveillance to see who was responsible for it and had surrounded the area while camouflaged in the bush with weapons when the four men turned up.
Mr Griffith said Swayn appeared to be the leader, as he appeared to direct the other three men.
Defence solicitor for Swayn, Doug Winning said there was no evidence this was the case as police could not actually hear what the men were saying.
It was revealed that Swayn had a substantial criminal history, including drug offences and had been jailed for an offence of grievous bodily harm.
The other three men had lesser criminal histories, though Cash and Roseman both had previous drug offences.
Justice Duncan McMeekin recognised that Swayn had an "appalling criminal history" and accepted that he was the apparent leader.
"You used your age and influence over these youngsters to mislead them," Justice McMeekin said.
He sentenced Swayn to 12 months imprisonment, wholly suspended with an operational period of two years.
Cash, Horton and Roseman each received six months imprisonment with immediate parole.