Lismore man jailed for working on dad's cannabis crop
A DYSFUNCTIONAL father-son relationship no normal person would understand found Kristen Gardner working as cheap labour for his father's multi-million dollar marijuana crop.
Despite escaping the clutches of his controlling father to travel overseas, the Lismore man returned to work with his sister and brother on a rural property in the Southern Downs in Queensland.
That decision was one of the main factors that led to Justice David Boddice jailing Gardner on Thursday for five years after he pleaded guilty to producing the drug in 2005 and 2008.
He told Gardner - who learned to grow marijuana on a Doon Doon banana farm in Tweed Heads - he could have chosen not to return - unlike the young stepchildren of his father, Michael Bennett Gardner Snr.
Justice Boddice described in the Brisbane Supreme Court how Gardner's first stint on the Kinvarra property at Inglewood was "sporadic" but "significant".
Defence barrister James Godbolt argued his client had only returned to make a documentary about marijuana production.
But the court heard Gardner taught his father's stepchildren how to weed and cultivate marijuana.
Gardner also helped fence off a new crop area, build a second campsite on the property and helped with crop maintenance.
Mr Godbolt said threats from his father's wife Kelly Millard prompted Gardner's return.
He said Millard gave evidence that Gardner did not want to be involved in his father's crop and there was clearly bad blood between the pair.
Gardner Snr is currently serving 13 years' jail for planting the crop - regarded as Australia's largest marijuana crop - which he claimed was to fund a nation-wide media campaign against abortion, likening it to the genocide of Jews.
They would sell some of the product at Nimbin.
Despite an arrest warrant out for Gardner in Queensland, he began growing his own marijuana crop near Lionsville while working as a Lismore hotel manager and freelance wedding photographer.
He was sentenced to jail at Lismore District Court after NSW police discovered GPS co-ordinates to his bushland crop at his South Gundurimba home.
Gardner claimed he was raising money for his family's legal fees.
Justice Boddice said it was clear Gardner was a changed person since his release, with a number of people offering "glowing references".
As the sole provider for his partner and young child, Mr Goldbolt said Gardner wanted to give his child the life his father denied him.
Justice Boddice said it was clear Gardner's father had significant control over not only him, but all of the family.
Describing Gardner's upbringing as "dreadful", he said his father had denied him continuous education and Gardner witnessed significant acts of violence against his mother.
Allowing for Gardner's jail time spent in NSW before his Queensland sentencing, he will be eligible to apply for parole on November 23, 2015.
- APN NEWSDESK