No appeal over ice pipe sentence

Days after being jailed for supplying synthetic cannabis, a pharmacist has had an application to appeal his sentence for importing ice pipes knocked back

Hoang Nam Nguyen, a community pharmacist and owner of the Cloud 9 chain of smoke shops, was convicted in 2016 of three counts of importing prohibited items: “ice pipes” for smoking methylamphetamine or other drugs in crystal, powder, oil or base form.

At the time, the Deputy Chief Magistrate imposed a global fine of $60,000 and ordered he pay costs of $36,500.

Mr Nguyen appealed the sentence and costs order, saying these were manifestly excessive; while he was granted leave to appeal, this appeal was dismissed in November 2017.

He took his case to the WA Court of Appeal to protest the dismissal of his appeal, but leave to appeal was refused.

Following the interception by Customs of parcels addressed to Mr Nguyen at his business premises, investigators searched the Highgate Cloud 9 store and found 151 ice pipes on sale, at prices varying between $60 and $120. Damaged pipes were also found on the premises.

Mr Nguyen told investigators at the time that they were used for smoking tobacco.

His work as a pharmacist was cited as an aggravating factor in the offending.

At the time the Deputy Chief Magistrate said that it would be “naïve to the extreme to suggest, in my view, that a pharmacist that is trained would be unaware of the trends in the community as to the use of ice, how it is used and the prevalence of its use”.

She said that “it is my view that a person as a pharmacist practising in that area would be well aware of trends that are developing in the community with the use of illicit drugs”.

It found that Mr Nguyen did not have permission to import the ice pipes and permission was unlikely to have been given.

There was no use for the pipes other than as ice pipes, and there was a considerable commercial advantage in importing them, found the Deputy Chief Magistrate.

The appeals court noted that the maximum penalty for an offence of this nature, where the court can not determine the value of the goods, was $170,000 with a jurisdictional limit for prosecutions commenced in the Magistrates Court of $34,000.

The court noted that the pharmacist “must have appreciated the damaging effects of methylamphetamine and the manner of its use in the community”.

Leave to appeal was refused and the appeal dismissed.

Last week Mr Nguyen was sentenced to two years’ jail after he pleaded guilty to supplying prohibited substances, including 5F-AMB, AB-CHMINACA and FUB-AMB, through the Cloud 9 stores.

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