‘Chickpeas, milk, fertiliser’: Strange stoush in drug trial
A VERDICT in the trial of self-confessed drug trafficker Ryan Hill is expected on Wednesday after a bizarre series of legal arguments involving various foodstuffs, household products and football teams.
Hill, 27, has already confessed to dealing huge quantities of methylamphetamines, cocaine and MDMA in Cairns for more than two years, between 2016 and 2018.
But he is fighting part of the charge which alleged he did it as part of a syndicate, legislation which would add a mandatory seven years to his eventual sentence if found guilty.
The relatively new legislation has never been used in Queensland despite coming into effect in 2016, meaning the prosecution and Hill's lawyers engaged in a landmark legal test of it in the Cairns Supreme Court yesterday.
The complex legislation calls for those involved in an organised crime group of three or more people to be handed the mandatory extra penalty, with much of yesterday's discussion revolving around the meaning of the word "group".
Police have alleged the "group" in this case involved Hill, alleged Sydney supplier Kalid Kanj, courier Sandeep Dharan and Cairns Toll operations manager Jamie Payet.
During Crown prosecutor Nathan Crane's closing address Justice Peter Applegarth offered several "real world" analogies, including the supply chains of a chickpea company or milk into Cairns, as argument for why Hill was not part of a group.
"I have no doubt at all that they were engaging in serious criminal activity, but you have to establish that they engaged in it as a group," Justice Applegarth said.
"You can't say they are a group simply because they are engaged in a relationship as buyer and seller.
"That would mean every drug (operation) that involved a courier was a group and we would be adding seven years onto every drug trafficker."
Mr Crane argued this case was "unique" due to the quantity of drugs brought into Cairns, with the trial hearing on Monday Hill purchased amounts of up to 1kg of meth and was sending up to $170,000 cash through the post.
He said drug trafficking could not be compared to legitimate business operations.
"There are only a minute number of people who can conduct a business like that," he said.
Justice Applegarth, Mr Crane and defence barrister Tony Glynn brought up other analogies during the legal argument including someone selling "widgets" or fertiliser, the operation of football teams and convenience store franchises.
Originally published as 'Chickpeas, milk, fertiliser': Bizarre legal stoush in drug trial