Victoria’s first judge-only trial was meant to get underway this week, hearing a bizarre case after a woman claims she didn’t know the plants she was growing were cannabis.
Judge Liz Gaynor was meant to hear Victoria’s first judge-alone trial this week after jury-trials were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. While the trial has been adjourned as of Tuesday the 7th, the case is quite a doozy.
Thi Lang Bui and Phong Truong are both charged with the cultivation of cannabis in a large commercial quantity – a charge that carries a hefty 20-year prison sentence. However, both 46-year-old Bui and 56-year-old Truong are claiming they didn’t know they were growing were cannabis.
During her interview with police, Bui allegedly told police.
It’s growing plants. I don’t know what they are.
Bui also claims she never watered the plants and only prepared their soil, according to Sunshine police. Truong has made a similar claim, telling police that he was approached by a woman at a Sunshine shopping centre and offered a job as a crop sitter. Allegedly, he was told:
All you have to do is just – you know, just water the plant.
However, the job quickly backfired, as Bui and Truong were charged after a raid was conducted on a warehouse in 2018. During the investigation, police seized 1,047 live cannabis plants at the Truganina warehouse property. In total, over 402kg of cannabis were seized, along with hydroponic equipment and fertilisers.
Despite Bui and Truong claiming to be oblivious, police believe the operation was quite sophisticated, as the Trugania warehouse was divided into nine growing rooms. The largest of these held over 299 cannabis plants. Victoria’s County Court has also heard that Truong would admit to a lesser charge, as he believed each room only held 30 to 70 plants.
Despite their strange pleas of ignorance, the accused may have a slightly higher chance of being acquitted. According to NSW research, judge-only trials have a 49.5% acquittal rate compared to 46.1% in jury trials.
While the trial only began on Monday, it has been suspended until Wednesday after defence counsel Rohan Lawrence had to be tested for COVID-19.