BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA — An outraged father of nine has filed an appeal in Queensland’s highest court for a 13-year prison sentence he was handed for growing one of Australia’s largest cannabis crops.
The reason for his anger and appeal? He thought his stunning effort of growing an almost $70 million marijuana crop deserved a more severe sentence: at least 20-years in jail.
Michael Bennett Gardner Sr told the Court of Appeal in Brisbane that the reason for his outright indignation was his firm belief he had not been given proper recognition for the “full gravity” of his crop yield.
Gardner, who represented himself wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Abortion is Killing”, is thought to be one of the first Australians to challenge his prison term on the grounds it was manifestly inadequate.
In Queensland, it is usually the Attorney-General who appeals sentences deemed to be inadequate – not prisoners.
“The State (of Queensland) has not been made aware of the full gravity of this matter,” Gardner said. “I’ve applied to this court for an increase in sentence.”
Gardner, an anti-abortion campaigner, masterminded what is possibly Australia’s largest ever cannabis crop to raise funds for his proposed national anti-abortion campaign.
During his sentencing hearing Gardner, 58, called Brisbane Supreme Court judge Roslyn Atkinson a “tyrant” as she jailed him trafficking cannabis in quantities of “heroic” proportions between June 1, 2004, and December 17, 2008.
A crotchety and ill-humored Gardner at the time told the court Queensland’s strict drug laws and penalties were baseless and of no relevance in a world and time when abortions could be freely obtained via clinics who advertise in the Yellow Pages.
Gardner, during a 20-minute speech of questionable relevance to his court proceedings, proclaimed he had no regrets at all for growing more than 3.5 ton of cannabis and planned to do it again in his bid to stop the senseless “slaughter” of pre-natal Australians.
“It is unfair to willfully kill another human life,” he told the court.
“I highly object to living in a culture that (terminates) pre-natal human life.
Gardner, who pleaded guilty in March to one count of drug trafficking, will have to serve at least 10-years and four months in jail because under Queensland law he is now considered a dangerous violent offender and must serve at least 80 percent of his sentence behind bars.
Police, the court was told, arrested Gardner the day after they raided his property in Inglewood, 265 km southwest of Brisbane, and seized almost 3.6 tons of harvested and dried marijuana and a further 22,000 plants.
Prosecutor Michael Lehane said the estimated street value of the cannabis at the time of seizure was $68.95 million.
A less ill-tempered and mannered Gardner still had to be pulled into line by Court of Appeal judges on Monday as he tried to present irrelevant material to the court.
The court, comprising Justice’s Cate Holmes, Margaret White and Martin Daubney, reserved its decision.