Should the defendant go to jail for drug supply? Which case won?
Man arrested for supply of prohibited drugs
In June 2015, a young man was apprehended by police and found to be in possession of a substantial quantity of illegal recreational drugs. This included 17 MDMA tablets, 100 MDA tablets, 338.8 grams of 1,4-butanediol (or “bute”, an alternative to GHB), and 1.3728 kilograms of gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), as well as $3,000 in cash.
The man was charged with two counts of supply of a prohibited drug and one count of supply of a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug, along with other offences.
Penalties in NSW for drug supply and commercial drug supply
The maximum penalty for the supply of a prohibited drug is 15 years of imprisonment, and/or a fine of $220,000, while the maximum penalty for commercial drug supply is 20 years of imprisonment, and/or a $385,000 fine.
The offences also carry a standard non-parole period (SNPP) of 10 years. (An SNPP is a reference point for the sentencing judge when determining the minimum time a person must spend behind bars before being eligible to apply for release on parole.)
Defendant’s “tragic descent” attracts considerable media attention
The case attracted considerable media attention as a tale of tragic and spectacular fall from grace. The man had been school captain and dux of his school. He had received many awards, including for his involvement in activities promoting drug awareness.
After graduating with degrees in law and communications, he obtained employment as a lawyer, specialising in criminal law. A character reference by a senior partner in the firm where he worked described him as “a diligent and competent lawyer who dedicated his time and his efforts to ensuring his clients were provided with clear legal advice and well represented in Court.”
Guilty plea and prison sentence followed by appeal to Court of Criminal Appeal
The man had confessed to police that he had developed an addiction to drugs. At the time of his arrest, he was supplying drugs to a small circle of friends and was regularly using MDMA and ice.
He pleaded guilty to the charges in the District Court of NSW and was sentenced to four years in prison, with a minimum non-parole period of two years. He appealed this sentence in the hope of avoiding imprisonment.
It was up to Court of Criminal Appeal to determine whether or not the sentence was appropriate.