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DPP v James [2022] VCC 1603

The offender was sentenced following pleas of guilty to 1 count of attempting to possess a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug contrary to ss 11.1(1) and 307.8(1) of the Commonwealth Criminal Code and 2 counts of failing to comply with an order under s 3LA(2) of the Crimes Act 1914. Offending related to 145.45 kg of pure methamphetamine.

Nature and Circumstances:  The enterprise was sophisticated. The quantity of drugs offender attempted to collect was very large — a multiple of 192 times the statutory commercial quantity. Offender was neither a principal not an organiser; they were accountable to Williams who was higher in the organisation’s hierarchy. Offender had an important role to store the boxes, check their contents, and report to others before they were delivered elsewhere. Offender’s involvement was relatively brief. The objective seriousness of offending falls to the low to mid-range for offences of the type.

Hardship: During the COVID-19 pandemic, jail is harder for all prisoners. While it does not loom large as a consideration in the sentencing calculus, federal prisoners, who are denied another prisoner’s opportunity for sentence reduction for emergency management days, suffer an additional grievance. Offender suffers severe depression and anxiety which have deteriorated while they have been in custody. Because of offender’s psychological conditions, prison will weigh more heavily on them than a person in normal health and there is a serious risk their imprisonment will have a significantly adverse impact on their mental health. This is the first time offender has been incarcerated for a lengthy period.

Parity: The objective seriousness of Williams’ offending is substantially greater than offender’s. Williams appears to have had a direct financial interest in the imported drugs which he recruited offender to collect and store for him. However, the sentence for Williams was tempered significantly to account for the greater than usual, if not extraordinary, utilitarian value attached to his plea. By entering his guilty plea, Williams has given up the chance to test the admissibility of the controversial prosecution evidence against him. There does need to be some moderation of the sentence imposed on offender to avoid a justifiable sense of grievance on their part.

Offender sentenced to 13 years and 9 months imprisonment with a non-parole period of 8 years and 3 months.
The CSD acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as First Australians and recognises their culture, history, diversity and their deep connection to the land. We acknowledge that we are on the land of the traditional owners and pay respects to Elders past and present.

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