A delay in ascertaining whether two men accused of operating a suspected cannabis factory in Markethill were trafficked into the country has been branded “scandalous”.
Vinh Cong Pham (32) and Ty Van Le (32), both of no fixed abode, appeared via videolink from Maghaberry, facing the charges of cultivating cannabis, possessing a Class B drug, attempted possession of a Class B drug, dishonestly causing electricity to be diverted, being concerned in the supply of Class B drugs and dishonestly using electricity.
Defence solicitor Ruairi Gillen raised concerns over the delay as the court heard the human trafficking department of the Home Office met with the two defendants in Maghaberry last week.
A police officer told the Armagh Magistrates’ that “very little information” has been proffered by the Home Office and that there is still outstanding evidence to be processed, including forensics, handwriting analysis on the tenancy agreement, as well as phone analysis.
Mr Gillen said that he had “no questions, just a number of concerns”.
“The Home Office are supposed to make a decision in respect to the NRM (National Referral Mechanism) within five days. It’s quite frankly scandalous that it hasn’t been made as of now.
“I am not entirely sure what the purpose of the attendance with the police [to Maghaberry]. I was notified that the trafficking team were going to see the defendants. I assumed that was in order to assist with the NRM.
“I think assisting police with their inquiries in relation to the trafficking operations is a slightly different proposition and one wonders how the police on the one hand can say, we think that you can help us identify your traffickers, but in the same vein object to their bail, because they don’t believe they’re victims of trafficking.”
In response, the officer told the court that the referral had been made to the Home Office within five days but the process is now in the hands of the Home Office.
He added: “Last week’s meeting was from the human trafficking department. I was only there as an observer but she treated them as victims. The next bit was whether they would agree to a proper interview and they agreed to that. That’s done through human trafficking department.”
District Judge Ann Marshall urged police and prosecution to keep Mr Gillen abreast of developments and adjourned the case until December 12.
Both men were remanded back into custody.