Friday, March 1, 2024

Former Mayor sentenced over cannabis cultivation

Former Eurobodalla Shire Council Mayor, Liz Innes, has been sentenced in Batemans Bay Local Court today after earlier pleading guilty to drug cultivation charges over cannabis plants seized by NSW Police at her property west of Batemans Bay.

The 54-year-old, who resigned as Mayor in 2021, was convicted and fined $4,000 and will enter into a community corrections order for two years.

The cannabis plants were spotted beside a shipping container near Ms Innes’ Runnyford house by patrolling police officers earlier this month.

Officers found 78 plants – some up to 30cm in height – growing around the garden in pots and in garden beds. The plants were estimated to be worth up to $258,000.

Police said the plants appeared to be in good health and showed evidence of pruning to enhance growth.

The attending officers said Ms Innes was initially annoyed at their presence on her property and at one point informed them that she had been Mayor of the Eurobodalla Shire.

Ms Innes also told the officers the plants were for her personal use and that of her family.

Innes’ solicitor told the court today that the former Mayor had endured an extremely stressful period during the 2019/2020 Black Summer Bushfires and was “waiting for her term to finish before she let the emotional load out”.

“She was used to public scrutiny. But, with the extreme experience of the bushfires, it came to the point where she was at breaking point,” her solicitor said.

She said Ms Innes and a family member started using “very significant amounts of cannabis” but had had no intention of selling the cannabis plants.

Three character references were presented to the court, including from former Eurobodalla Council General Manager, Dr Catherine Dale.

Magistrate Doug Dick said this type of offending could not be tolerated, telling the former Mayor she had “thrown away” her reputation.

As part of her sentencing hearing, Ms Innes was told she must abstain from illicit drugs, actively engage in drug and alcohol treatment and consult a GP to set up a mental health campaign.

Ms Innes was Mayor of Eurbodalla Shire between 2016 and 2021, after being first elected to Council in 2012.

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