Former stuntman lands in jail
A HORTICULTURIST and former professional skateboarder has been sentenced to five years' jail in Grafton District Court for cultivating more than 600 cannabis plants in Nymboida and Billy's Creek.
Jordan Pankhurst, from Billy's Creek, west of Coffs Harbour, appeared in Grafton courthouse on Thursday for sentencing on four charges relating to the possession and cultivation of a prohibited drug.
On February 29, police investigating cannabis cultivation in the Clarence Valley searched a property at Nymboida, which led to the discovery of 510 mature cannabis plants growing in a 10m by 8m block on the southern bank of the Nymboida River.
The crop was irrigated via a pump and a series of black poly pipes, which pulled water out of the river system.
Police from Strike Force Hyperion seized the plants on March 3, which formed part of a record haul of more than $3million worth of cannabis in three days.
Two weeks later, officers arrived at Mr Pankhurst's home in Billy's Creek.
The 35-year-old husband and father of two is alleged to have said at the time: "Is it for the plants? Okay man, I'll throw my hands up for it."
A search of the property revealed a 'hothouse' built from clear sheeting, which contained 46 plants between 1-2m tall. Pankhurst then led police to a machinery shed, which revealed a second set-up in a 'guerilla grow tent', containing 52 plants.
It is also alleged there was photographic evidence of him tending to the plants in Nymboida.
Pankhurst made full admissions to police and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity. Having studied horticulture previously, he told police "he enjoyed gardening" and picked the cannabis from the plants sporadically.
In District Court, Judge James Bennett SC said Pankhurst had a disjointed upbringing and had used cannabis since he was 16.
He also mentioned the accused lived in Hong Kong for a period, where he became a professional skateboarder and minor celebrity, and was also a one-time stuntman in a Jackie Chan film.
In sentencing Pankhurst, Judge Bennett said there was no direct evidence of a commercial enterprise but it was likely his motivation. Pankhurst initiated, cultivated and harvested the crops, with a significant investment in both time and money to make it work, he said.
"It beggars belief that he would be capable of ingesting anywhere near the amount of weed growing."
With a three-year non-parole period in place, Pankhurst will be eligible for release in March 2019.