Cannabis grower escapes jail time in Cairns
A KEY witness in the case of the alleged murder of a gold prospector at Palmerville has received a two-year suspended sentence for growing more than 100 cannabis plants on his Cape York property.
Daniel Peter Bidner is one of three prospectors listed as witnesses in the Crown case against Palmerville cattle property owners Stephen Roy Struber, 55, and Dianne Rose Wilson-Struber, 50, who are charged with murdering Mareeba man Bruce Schuler in July last year.
The pair were granted bail in November after a Supreme Court hearing during which the three witnesses' drug links were canvassed.
Yesterday, Bidner pleaded guilty in the Cairns District Court to one charge of producing drugs, which he said were for personal use to deal with back injuries suffered during two motor vehicle accidents.
The court heard the plants, which weighed about 100kg, were grown at the 52-year-old's Laura property and were protected by an electrified fence.
Police raided the home on April 25 last year, but could not find any evidence of a commercial operation other than the large amount of drugs grown.
Defence barrister Michael Dalton said they were for personal use, as Bidner had taken to ingesting the drug to deal with his substantial pain without using large amounts of morphine.
"He ingests it by making butter out of the leaves," he said.
"The butter is used in the baking process, and then cannabis is used in the cake and you ingest it."
Mr Dalton said Bidner, who has two minor convictions for drugs on his record, had co-operated with police in regards to the Schuler case.
"It is a matter that goes to his character," he said.
But Judge Bill Everson questioned whether it was relevant.
"Is he doing anything other than his civic duty?" he asked.
Judge Everson said he took into account Bidner's severe medical problems, the fact he was "well-regarded in the community" and his limited criminal history when deciding to wholly suspend the sentence.
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