A woman has been found not guilty of manicuring marijuana crops uncovered growing in Gympie region national parks.
A woman has been found not guilty of manicuring marijuana crops uncovered growing in Gympie region national parks. Contributed

Woman cleared of involvement in major Gympie drug operation

A WOMAN was this week cleared of the charge of "manicuring" marijuana crops as part of a major Cooloola Coast drug operation.

A District Court jury took almost no time to return a unanimous not guilty verdict, clearing Sarah Bone of the charge of producing a dangerous drug - alleged to have taken place between late 2014 and early 2017.

The basis of the case against Ms Bone came solely from the evidence of witness Brett Hodgetts, who had previously been arrested, charged and eventually jailed for various offences to do with a major undercover police drug operation at the Cooloola Coast starting in April 2017.

The court heard Mr Hodgetts had given statements to police while in jail, implicating Ms Bone of the charge against her, among others, to reduce his own sentence.

Crown prosecutors stressed the importance of accepting Mr Hodgetts as a "truthful and reliable" witness in order to convict Ms Bone, and that the jurors "didn't have to like" either party.

Ms Bone's solicitor agreed with the importance of the "truth and reliable" witness assessment, stating the case stood or fell on Mr Hodgetts' evidence.

The solicitor called Mr Hodgetts' evidence "vague" and noted he had not provided any particular times or dates.

Mr Hodgetts' evidence had instead confined the alleged offending simply to "one season" the year before the police operation began.

The solicitor said lack of detail had made it "impossible" for Ms Bone, who did not give or call for evidence in court, to defend herself or supply an alibi.

She cited Mr Hodgetts' "clear dislike" of Ms Bone following past interactions between them.

She submitted that Mr Hodgetts had implicated Ms Bone after his sexual attraction and advances toward her had been rebuffed.

Mr Hodgetts accepted he did not like Ms Bone during cross-examination, and that she had told him she wanted nothing to do with him, but denied separate allegations of sexual harassment towards her heard in court.

The solicitor implored the jury not to be "fooled" by the details or "familiarity" of the manicuring process given by Mr Hodgetts.

The prosecution argued Mr Hodgetts' evidence could be believed because he had only mentioned Ms Bone in one of 88 paragraphs within his 16-page statement to police, and her only involvement had been in manicuring plants on a few occasions.

Ms Bone wiped away tears of relief in the dock as the jury returned its not guilty verdict.

Gympie Times


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