Man linked to drugs farm gang denied bail
A "middle man" allegedly linked to a sophisticated drugs operation that included an underground cannabis farm hidden below a shed has been refused bail.
Brendan McDonagh (31) made the application at Belfast Crown Court, which was rejected on the grounds he was likely to reoffend if released from custody.
McDonagh, from Kinnaird Street in Belfast, and a number of co-accused were arrested last May after the purpose-built facility was discovered on the Derryneil Road in Castlewellan.
Crown prosecutor Joseph Murphy branded the drugs operation "extremely sophisticated".
He told the court: "This was the first time in Northern Ireland that police encountered a purpose-built facility with a basement and a shed on top, rather than a shed which has simply been converted."
Mr Murphy said McDonagh was linked to the operation in several ways, including being caught on a recording talking about the operation and through a package containing 894 grams of herbal cannabis that was intercepted by authorities.
When asked about the alleged ranking in the gang, Mr Murphy said police believed McDonagh to be a "trusted middle man".
He also described the facility in Castlewellan as "intended to be a long-term and large scale operation" which was expected to "yield high profits".
After McDonagh and his co-accused were arrested, McDonagh was charged with a number of offences including conspiracy to produce a class B drug. McDonagh has denied all the offences and is set to stand trial at Downpatrick Crown Court this November.