Drug Supply Charges: Pleading Guilty, Remorse and Rehabilitation Can Significantly Reduce Sentence

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Drug Rehabilitation

A former AFL player has been sentenced to a full term of five years and four months in prison, with a non-parole period of three years, after being sentenced over multiple counts of supplying a prohibited drug as well as possessing a prohibited drug.

Fallen star

Former Saint Kilda star, 41-year old Sam Fisher, was put on the police radar shortly after a suspicious parcel arrived in Perth in early 2022 containing $129,000 in cash, sent to 35-year old Julien Movan.

Telephone intercepts as well as text messages on Mr Movan’s phone suggested the involvement of Mr Fisher.

On 22 April 2022, police intercepted a container which was collected by the 13-year AFL veteran from a Harvey Norman store in Moorabbin, south-east of the Melbourne CBD, and delivered to a Melbourne patisserie owned by Mr Movan’s father.

The package was found to have contained 996 grams of methamphetamine and 82 grams of cocaine secreted in a kitchen rangehood.

Police raided Mr Fisher’s home in Sandringham, south of Melbourne, on 18 May 2022, seizing 1800 grams of 1,4-Butanediol and 9 grams of methamphetamine, as well as quantities of LSD, diazepam and steroids.

The former player was set to face a jury trial in April of this year, but ultimately pleaded guilty to his role in the drug trafficking operation.

During sentencing proceedings in the County Court of Victoria on 16 May 2024, Mr Fisher’s criminal defence barrister, King’s Counsel Dermot Dan, told the court his client’s life had ‘spiralled out of control’ after an injury which led to his retirement.

The barrister submitted in court that his client’s drug use intensified during Covid-19 as a result of a failed property development.

‘To his credit… he has devoted himself to rehabilitation ever since’, the barrister added.

The presiding judge, Gerard Mullaly, accepted that submission, telling Mr Fisher:

“You acknowledge now you were fiercely addicted and consuming multiple drugs in an uncontrollable fashion”.

“You began to move in circles with others involving drugs.”

“Your chaotic lifestyle came to an abrupt end when you were arrested.”

The judge then, however, noted:

“You are a long way from the daily drug taker of 2022,”

Mr Fisher had been facing a maximum penalty of life in prison, but his pleas of guilty, genuine remorse and significant steps towards rehabilitation including 105 days spent in a residential drug rehabilitation facility as a condition of his bail persuaded the judge he was unlikely to reoffend and significantly contributed to reducing his minimum term to three years behind bars.

Having spent 48 days in custody on remand, the fallen star will be eligible for release on parole in late March 2027, when it is hoped he will in fact be released from custody and have the opportunity to rebuild his life.

The Offence of Drug Supply in New South Wales

Supplying a prohibited drug is an offence under section 25 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 which requires the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

To establish the offence of drug supply, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. You supplied, or knowingly took part in the supply of, a substance,
  2. The substance was a prohibited drug, and
  3. You knew or believed, or were aware that there was a significant or real chance, that the substance was a prohibited drug.

To ‘supply’ includes to sell or distribute, or agree to do so, to offer for supply, to keep or have in your possession for supply, to send, forward, deliver or receive for supply, and to authorise, direct, cause, suffer, permit or attempt any of those acts.

To ‘take part in’ means to:

  • Take, or participate in, or cause any step to be taken, in the process of the supply,
  • Provide or arrange finance for any such step, or
  • Provide the premises in which any such step is taken, or suffering or permitting any such step to be taken in premises where you are the owner, lessee or occupier, or in the management of.

Penalties for drug supply in New South Wales

The maximum penalties for ‘drug supply’ depend on:

1. Drug type,

2. Drug quantity, and

3. Whether the case is dealt with in the Local or District court.

Drug type / quantity categories

The following table contains some of the most frequently-prosecuted drug types in New South Wales as well as the corresponding quantity categories.

Drug Type Small Quantity Indictable Quantity Commercial Quantity Large Commercial Quantity
Ecstacy (MDMA) 0.25grams 1.25grams 125grams 500grams
Cocaine 1gram 5grams 250grams 1kg
Amphetamines 1gram 5grams 250grams 1kg
Heroin 1gram 5grams 250grams 1kg
Cannabis 30 grams 1kg 25kg 100kg

Maximum penalties 

The following table contains the maximum penalties for drug supply offences in New South Wales.

Quantity Category When Dealt with in Local Court When Dealt with In District Court
Less than Small Quantity 2 years prison and/or $5,500 fine 15 years prison and/or $220,000 fine
At Least Small Quantity but Less Than Indictable Quantity 2 years prison and/or $11,000 fine 15 years prison and/or $220,000 fine
At Least Indictable Quantity but Less Than Commercial Quantity 2 years prison and/or $11,000 fine 15 years prison and/or $220,000 fine
At Least Commercial Quantity but Less Than Large Commercial Quantity Not Applicable 20 years prison and/or $385,000 fine
At Least Large Commercial Quantity Not Applicable Life imprisonment and/or $550,000 fine

Legal defences 

The most common general legal defence to drug supply charges is duress, which is where your actions were due to a threat of death or serious injury, and there was no reasonable way for you to render the threat ineffective, and your conduct was a reasonable response to the threat.

Additional general legal defences include mental illness, duress and automatism.

In the event you are able to raise evidence of a general legal defence, the onus then shifts to the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defence does not apply to the circumstances of your case.

You are entitled to an acquittal if the prosecution is unable to do this.

An further defence to the charge is where you are able to establish, on the balance of probabilities, that you were temporarily holding the drugs for the owner, which is known as the ‘Carey defence’ and can reduce an offence of drug supply down to the lesser offence of drug possession.

In addition to these defences, a drug supply will not succeed where the prosecution is not able to prove you had ‘exclusive possession’ of the substances, which is often referred to informally as the ‘Filipetti defence’ or where the drugs were found in the course of an illegal search.

Going to court for drug supply?

If you are facing court over allegations of drug supply, call Sydney Criminal Lawyers anytime on (02) 9261 8881 to arrange a free consultation with a criminal defence lawyer who has the knowledge, specialisation and experience to achieve the optimal outcome.

Our defence lawyers have an outstanding track record of having drug supply charges withdrawn due to insufficiency of prosecution evidence (including a lack of evidence of exclusive possession or other weaknesses and inconsistencies), or illegal search, or the availability of a legal defence (such as duress), or downgraded to drug possession due to a lack of evidence of actual supply (eg through overcoming the onus for required for deemed supply, or by using the Carey defence for actual supply), or thrown out of court where cases reach defended hearings or jury trials.

Our firm is often able to achieve positive results in situations where our clients have been advised by other lawyers that the prosecution evidence is insurmountable, and that they should simply ‘plead guilty’ to drug supply.

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Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 25 years of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Spring 2022.

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