Man caught growing cannabis in Tipperary was meant to be serving 12 years in English prison

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Ruaidhrí Giblin

A man who was supposed to be serving 12 years in an English prison when he was caught cultivating 112 cannabis plants in Co Tipperary will be extradited to the UK when he finishes serving his sentence here.

The British request to extradite Welsh man Wesley Purse (42) was the first to come before the Irish High Court since the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement was concluded between the UK and the EU last October.

However, the High Court rejected an argument on Friday that the expiry of the withdrawal agreement on December 31st next was any bar to Mr Purse’s surrender.

The 42-year-old is wanted by UK authorities to serve the 12-year sentence that was imposed in his absence at Stafford Crown Court for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, namely cocaine, in Staffordshire in July 2014.

He is also wanted to face charges of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, affray and possession of a baseball bat arising out of an alleged attack on a male in the UK on August 8th, 2015. It is alleged that Mr Purse violently attacked the man with a baseball bat following an altercation with some occupants of a car.

Failed to answer bail

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He was released pending charge for the alleged attack but failed to answer bail and was subsequently found cultivating €42,000 worth of cannabis at Rossadrehid, Co Tipperary on May 3rd, 2017, for which he received a five-year prison sentence, which expires in January 2021.

UK authorities sent an extradition request to Ireland in November 2019 seeking the return of Mr Purse to serve the 12-year sentence imposed in his absence at Stafford Crown Court in 2016 and to face charges for the alleged violent assault.

Ordering Mr Purse’s surrender in the High Court on Friday, Mr Justice Paul Burns said provisions existed to facilitate the continued extradition of individuals to Britain.

Mr Purse’s main objection to being surrendered was a claim that he wasn’t sufficiently informed about the Welsh proceedings and that he wasn't aware of the 12 year sentence imposed in his absence.

Amended indictment

Counsel for Purse, John Ferry BL, said he had significant concerns about how proceedings were conducted in the Welsh court. Purse had been present for the initial stages of proceedings and had pleaded not guilty to supplying class A drugs but the charge was subsequently amended in his absence to one of conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

However, Mr Justice Burns said there was no substantial difference between the two offences. Alternative verdicts were always a possibility in criminal proceedings and the amended indictment more accurately reflected the charge.

Mr Justice Burns said Purse must be taken to have "unequivocally waived" his rights when he absconded.

The judge said he was satisfied Purse was aware of the ongoing trial process, he was legally represented in the trial and there was no flagrant denial of justice by proceeding to sentence him in his absence.

Mr Justice Burns said there was no reason to prohibit Purse's surrender to UK authorities. He ordered his extradition but postponed implementing surrender until Purse's Irish prison sentence expires in January 2021.

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