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Third chance for farmer, 48

A NORTH Gregory fruit farmer has narrowly escaped time behind bars after pleading guilty to producing and possessing dangerous drugs and unlawfully possessing a firearm.

David James Higginbotham was handed an 18-month jail term for producing dangerous drugs, specifically marijuana, but he was immediately paroled in the Bundaberg District Court yesterday.

Crown prosecutor Shauna Rankine directed Judge Fleur Kingham to Higginbotham's criminal history, where through his lawyer in 2011, Higginbotham told the judge it would be the absolute last time he would involve himself in drugs.

Despite the claim, Ms Rankine told the court on June 26 last year police raided Higginbotham's fruit farm where they found 584gm of marijuana in a number of sealed bags and more than 100 plants growing in bushland bordering his farm.

She said Higginbotham arrived at the property 20 minutes after police and made a full admission.

"He stated he used a quarter of an ounce a day for personal use," she said.

"The crown do accept it was for personal use despite the quantity."

Defence lawyer John Dodd told the court his client had smoked marijuana since he was 14 but had abstained since being convicted of similar offences in 2011.

He said his client lost his food crops in the 2010/2011 flood but when hit again by the 2013 flood, he was devastated.

"His friend came around and offered him marijuana and his habit started again," Mr Dodd said.

But he said Higginbotham had accepted he was an addict and was undergoing treatment.

As to the firearm, Mr Dodd said his client possessed a 12 gauge shotgun to scare birds away from his fruit trees and was unable to apply to legally obtain a firearm licence because of previous convictions.

In handing down the sentence, Judge Kingham took into consideration Higginbotham finally had admitted he was an addict and had sought help through Bridges.

She said the sentence was structured to keep Higginbotham honest and warned him if he reoffended. he could expect to go to jail.

Higginbotham will also be on probation for three years and may undergo random drug testing.

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