Family bust for huge dagga farm gets a big breather
Stay of prosecution granted thanks to unresolved cases involving 'dagga couple' and Rasta lawyer
A family of 10 busted in a R150m drug raid has managed to secure a stay of prosecution thanks to two pending court cases around the legal use of dagga, their lawyer told Times Select on Wednesday.
“It would have been very prejudicial to my clients if the case against my clients went to trial while there is such a pending crucial case that can affect their own case,” lawyer SW Van der Merwe said, adding that they feared direct imprisonment.
He secured the stay of prosecution in the Pretoria High Court on August 30 when he asked the court to halt criminal proceedings against the group until the finalisation of a Constitutional Court matter and a separate high court matter over the lawfulness of dagga.
In 2014, the Hawks pounced on the family accused of running a dagga plant from a farm at Hartbeespoort Dam in North West. A group of 15 people were arrested and faced charges of contravening the Drug Trafficking Act, related to the possession of and dealing in dagga. Van der Merwe represented 10 of the 15 people who were arrested.
The 10 family members are Jared Brass, Jacobus Naude Swanepoel, Justin Devan Brass, Patrick Fitzgerald Brass, Vanessa Eileen Brass, Lara Texeira, Tiago Texeira, David Roque, Wade Brass and Donovan Angel. They are all accused of being part of the operation of cultivating and selling dagga.
The farm where they allegedly had their dagga plantation in Hartbeespoort was about 10km from a police station.
At the time of their arrest police confiscated nearly R150m worth of premium-grade dagga and equipment at six labs.
They allegedly had another lab in Bryanston, Sandton.
In their application for the stay of prosecution, the accused argued that prosecution should be halted pending the outcome of two court matters around the legality of dagga use.
The first matter has been brought by the so-called dagga couple, Julian Christopher Stobbs and Cathleen Clark, in the Pretoria High Court. They are asking the court to strike down all the laws banning the use, cultivation and sale of marijuana for recreational and medical use.
The second matter relates to Rastafarian lawyer Gareth Prince‚ who has been fighting for the right to smoke cannabis in the privacy of his home. His case is currently before the Constitutional Court.
High Court Judge Joseph Raulinga agreed with the “dagga” family’s application.
In his judgment, Raulinga said there was no merit in the state’s opposition to the matter.
The state had argued that the accused could not rely on the Prince matter because it was different to their case since it dealt with private possession of small quantities of cannabis.
“The maxim ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ and the maxim ‘justice must not only be done but seen to be done’ are not necessarily in opposition of each other but do complete each other,” reads Raulinga’s judgment.