Picton drug house may be seized
BY ANGELA CROMPTON AND MAIKE VAN DER HEIDE
In what may be a first in New Zealand, a Picton house could soon be in Crown hands after its owner was convicted of commercially growing and dealing cannabis there.
Gary Walter Tittleton, 63, a sickness beneficiary, appeared in the Blenheim District Court this week and admitted cultivating cannabis and possessing cannabis for supply after police searched his Picton home on September 21.
Picton police want to confiscate Tittleton's house under new legislation passed on December 1 that allows police to seize assets involved or used in criminal acts for certain offences. Under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009, administered by the Ministry of Justice, police can apply for a restraining order on assets used in crimes. Items can include vehicles, houses or household items.
A restraining order had been taken out against Tittleton's house by police, meaning he cannot on-sell it before he is sentenced.
The sentencing judge will decide whether the house will be forfeited to the Crown.
Picton Detective Kris Payne said Tittleton's case may be the first to proceed under the new legislation.
When police searched Tittleton's home on September 21 they found 2.416 kilograms of "extremely good quality" dried cannabis head, police prosecutor Sergeant Steve Frost told the court.
Five bags were found in a bedroom and loose cannabis was also found in the lounge.
Mr Frost said if it was sold in one-gram "tinnies", usually priced between $20 to $25, it would be worth between $32,000 and $41,000.
Tittleton accepted ownership of the class C drug but told police he cultivated it for his own use.
Lawyer Gary Sawyer called for a full probation report to look at sentencing options, including home detention.
Judge Chris Tuohy said a report was certainly needed but warned Tittleton he might not have a home to use for detention, noting police wanted to confiscate it because it was being used as a commercial cannabis cultivation and dealing base.
Police also found a range of cultivation and harvesting equipment along with a sophisticated growing area with lights, irrigation and fertilising systems underneath the house. Eight small cannabis plants were in one cultivation area and a few cannabis cuttings showed where another crop had been harvested.
Tittleton, who was charged indictably, was remanded on bail and ordered to report to police once a week until he is sentenced on February 11.
- The Marlborough Express