Belfast Telegraph

Street entertainer jailed for home cannabis factory loses bid to overturn drug dealing conviction

A street entertainer jailed for having a cannabis factory at his home failed today today in a bid to overturn a further conviction for intending the supply the drugs.

Paul McAtarsney received a 21-month sentence after pleading guilty to dishonestly using electricity and possessing and producing cannabis.

Police had found a large number of plants growing during a raid on his home at Sydenham Drive, Belfast in September 2009.

The premises were adapted with the installation of heaters, watering systems and extractor ducts.

Based on the scale of the operation and amount of money involved, prosecutors contended that McAtarsney planned to supply drugs.

He was tried on the further charge of possession with intent to supply and sentenced, on conviction, to 18 months imprisonment concurrent to the other jail term.

Challenging this further conviction in the Court of Appeal, McAtarsney's lawyers argued that the guilty verdict was unsafe.

They stated his case was that he intended to produce the drugs for his own use.

But Lord Justice Girvan dismissed the appeal after rejecting an argument that the intention must be to supply precisely the identified materials at the time it comes to the prosecution's attention.

Based on the evidence, he said "there is no reason why the defendant should not be found guilty of having in his possession herbal cannabis, some or all of which he intends to supply to other parties even if he has to cut up the plant or portions of it before supplying the cannabis available in the plant which is in his possession".

The judge added that the question posed by the defence was somewhat academic anyway, as McAtarsney received a heavier sentence on the cultivation count.

Before agreeing to grant legal aid for the appeal Lord Justice Girvan asked for details on the defendant's financial means.

Defence counsel told him: "He's a street entertainer. He works sporadically."

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