(Australia) Devoted grandmother grew cannabis in her backyard to help family


Jul 25, 2008
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url: hMPp://www.news.com.au/national-news/victoria/devoted-grandmother-grew-cannabis-in-her-backyard-to-help-family-court-told/story-fnii5sms-1226699899361

(Australia) Devoted grandmother grew cannabis in her backyard to help family

A DEVOTED grandmother was misguided when she turned her suburban Melbourne backyard into a cannabis plantation to save her sons from buying drugs off the streets, a judge has said.

Age Kolaj, 69, avoided jail yesterday after pleading guilty to cultivating 11 narcotic plants, weighing more 57kg, at her Melton home.

The crime carries a maximum penalty of 15 years' imprisonment.

Prosecutor Catharine Sedgwick said Kolaj told police she grew the drugs for her husband and sons - who also lived at the address with her four-year-old grandson - to keep the family together.

Ms Sedgwick said Kolaj confessed to police and told them to "take (the plants) away" after officers, acting on an anonymous tip-off, viewed the growing openly in the yard.

Kolaj told police: "It was me, no one else. I got the seeds, I planted them, I looked after them. No one else."

She said she grew the cannabis to keep her sons - who had criminal records and issues with drugs - out of trouble and so they did not have to "pinch things", the court heard.

Defence counsel David McKenzie said Kolaj was a devoted mother to her "two wonderful daughters… and two less-wonderful sons".

Mr McKenzie said his client, who had an impoverished upbringing in Kosovo and, with no access to education, remained illiterate, should be shown mercy.

County Court Judge Lisa Hannan said the woman's circumstances were exceptional because of her lack of education and "history of deprivation and disadvantage".

"It's an exceptional case… it was so simplistic, growing cannabis in your own backyard backing on to a park," the judge said.

"This was a very misguided attempt to help your sons and your husband in a way in which you believed was the lesser of two evils," she told Kolaj.

"You are a woman who clearly loves her family and literally did anything for them."

Judge Hannan said Kolaj was sent to Australia to marry a man she did not know, an arrangement made by her parents when she was an infant, not knowing he had been hospitalised for a year due to his schizophrenia.

At night, she slept with one of her children or behind a locked door for fear of being killed in her sleep by her verbally and physically abusive husband, the judge said.

"You were trapped in a life you had not chosen. You devoted yourself to caring for your children no less," she said.

Judge Hannan said that despite the haul being more than double the prescribed commercial quantity, she believed Kolaj grew the drugs to supply only her family members.

In convicting Kolaj and placing her on a two-year good behaviour bond, the judge said this sentence was not reflective of how the seriously the courts considered drug offences.

Kolaj, who required the assistance of an Albanian interpreter, cried during the plea hearing and was supported in court by one of her sons.

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