A former pharmacist has had his sentence for trafficking methylamphetamine for a crime syndicate reduced on appeal
Queensland’s Supreme Court heard that the former pharmacist appealed his ten-year sentence, handed down in late 2019, saying that it was manifestly excessive.
He had been convicted for trafficking in methylamphetamine, committed “with a serious organised crime circumstance of aggravation,” the Court noted, adding that there had also been other offences – such as possessing methylamphetamine – for which he had not received further punishment.
The former pharmacist had been facing up to 18 years’ imprisonment, which would have required him to serve at least 15.8 years, but the sentencing judge reduced this due to the defendant’s cooperation in proceedings about a major criminal offence.
In his appeal the former pharmacist also claimed that the judge had erred in law, and that his sentence should be reduced given that when his co-offender was sentenced, this person had been handed a nine-year term with parole eligibility after 4.5 years. Without taking into account his own mitigating circumstances, this person would have been facing a 21-year term with parole eligibility after 18.2 years.
The Supreme Court heard that the pharmacist had been trafficking the drugs between 31 December 2013 until 2 August 2017.
“The applicant’s trafficking was as a courier for a large organised drug syndicate, which was based in Sydney and which sent methylamphetamine into and around Queensland,” Judge JA McMurdo noted.
The pharmacist would travel to Sydney to deliver money given to him by the head of the syndicate in Queensland, who the judge referred to as “N”. These amounts were “of the order of $200,000 to $400,000”.
“He estimated that he did this on at least 20 occasions and delivered a total of approximately $5,000,000.
“On three of those occasions, he hired a car and drove back to Queensland, bringing drugs with him.
“The sentencing judge inferred that the quantities of the drugs which he brought back from Sydney would have been commensurate with the amount of cash which he had taken there.
“He also collected drugs, on 12 occasions, which had been brought to Brisbane from Sydney by other members of the syndicate.”
The judge noted that the former pharmacist had been a courier for two supply lines within the syndicate, one of which was to a man identified as “W,” who was in Brisbane; and to another man, “C,” in Mackay.
“C” was the person whose sentence the former pharmacist compared to his own in forming part of the basis of the appeal.
The pharmacist had begun delivering drugs for N to C in Mackay in 2008/9, and continued to do so until late 2011.
He stopped for a time, resuming the trafficking at the end of 2013. He had not been charged over the 2008/9-2011 trafficking, as he had secured an indemnity for that conduct.
In 2014, the former pharmacist recommended couriering drugs and cash for the syndicate, the judge noted.
During the relevant period he estimated that he delivered around 25kg to 30kg of methylamphetamine to C, each time taking them home to pack them and hide them in various parts of his car for the trip to Mackay.
He then returned with an average $200,000 in cash – one shipment was $450,000 – which he brought to the head of the syndicate.
The former pharmacist estimated that during this time he had carried $5 to $10 million in cash – but he would only receive an average $2000 to $4000 for his involvement.
He also made three deliveries of cannabis, totalling 22.6kg, which cost C $150,000.
The former practitioner was then introduced to W, and over four months in 2014 and 2015, delivered 2kg of methylamphetamine to him on five to seven occasions. For this, he delivered around $2 million in cash to N.
“The sentencing judge summarised the extent of the applicant’s trafficking as involving deliveries of between $12,000,000 and $17,000,000 as payment for drugs, and between 35 and 44 kilograms of substance containing a Schedule 1 drug to C and W,” Justice McMurdo noted.
“Her Honour added that this quantity of drugs did not take full account of the deliveries of drugs which he brought from Sydney to Brisbane, nor the 12 deliveries which he collected at Brisbane after other couriers had brought the drugs from Sydney.”
The Court heard that the pharmacist had trafficked “wholly” for financial reasons, and was not himself a drug user. He had previously operated a pharmacy business, which had failed, as had another enterprise.
It heard that the sentencing judge had noted that he was not a “mere courier” but instead a trusted part of the operation, and that C had described him in a statement to police as N’s “right-hand man,” though he had not been part of the syndicate’s management.
“The judge was particularly scathing in her criticism of his offending in the circumstance that the applicant had, as a younger man, become a qualified pharmacist (a career he abandoned well before this offending), and as such, would have been well aware of the terrible effects of the drugs he carried.”
She had noted a lack of remorse and that the applicant’s lapse in trafficking (between 2011 and 2013) had probably been because N had not given him any work.
The former pharmacist had been caught when he was driving N in a Rockhampton McDonalds car park, and police intercepted the car. On searching it, they found drugs, three mobile phones owned by the former pharmacist and a “relatively small” amount of cash.
The Supreme Court found that claims of the sentencing judge erring in law, and the claim that the sentence was manifestly excessive, had failed.
However, there was also the issue of parity to consider.
The Supreme Court noted that C’s criminality was greater than that of the former pharmacist, but there was a “marked disparity” between their sentences, with C, if he was released on parole when he became eligible, possibly serving only 4.5 years compared with the pharmacist’s minimum of eight.
The Supreme Court decided to allow the former pharmacist’s appeal.
It decided to reduce the former pharmacist’s sentence to nine years’ imprisonment, which makes him eligible for parole in June 2025.