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Drugs factory accused 'only at property to fix washer'

By Alan Erwin

Published 31/03/2016

Joseph McGuigan was arrested as part of a police operation involving the seizure of £106,000 worth of plants in Limavady, Co Derry, earlier this month
Joseph McGuigan was arrested as part of a police operation involving the seizure of £106,000 worth of plants in Limavady, Co Derry, earlier this month

A man accused of operating a cannabis factory just doors from a courthouse claimed he was only there to examine a washing machine, a judge was told.

Joseph McGuigan was arrested as part of a police operation involving the seizure of £106,000 worth of plants in Limavady, Co Derry, earlier this month.

Details emerged as the 53-year-old was granted bail at the High Court in Belfast.

McGuigan, of Robertson Crescent in Limavady, is one of two men charged with cultivating cannabis and possessing Class B drugs with intent to supply.

They were detained on March 16 following a probe involving surveillance at a property on Linenhall Street in the town.

The premises were said to be located just a few doors away from the courthouse.

At a previous hearing it was claimed bedrooms had been converted into growing and seeding rooms, with more than 200 plants recovered.

McGuigan and his co-accused, Joseph Hughes (46) of Rathbeg Crescent in Limavady, were arrested outside after allegedly being seen exiting the property.

According to police McGuigan shouted to the other man: "Joe, just tell them we were fixing the washing machine." Prosecution barrister Robin Steer argued yesterday that it would be impossible for the defendant not to know drugs were being grown in the house.

Opposing bail, he added: "This is clearly an operation involving a number of people, due to the scale."

It was disclosed that a safe has also been seized from a house as part of the same investigation.

Defence counsel contended, however, that the current case against McGuigan is based entirely on circumstantial evidence.

She claimed it could take more than a year for forensic examinations to be completed.

The barrister also submitted that when detained her client actually said: "F*** you and that washing machine."

Stressing his continued denial of the offences, she told the court he had been asked to go there to look at the appliance.

"It was for the purpose of selling on this washing machine for profit," she added.

With Hughes having previously secured bail, Madam Justice McBride ruled that McGuigan should also be released from custody.

The judge ordered him to have no contact with his co-accused and to abide by curfew and electronic monitoring conditions.

Belfast Telegraph

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