A MAGISTRATE has fined a Tamworth businessman $2000 for supplying the drug cocaine, telling him it was “a wake-up call” he got caught.
Matthew Raymond Hill was supported by family members in Tamworth Local Court on Wednesday as he was convicted of supplying 3.5g of the drug, with offences of possessing cocaine and self-administering the drug also taken into account in sentencing.
“Whether it was for your own pleasure, whether it was self-medicating, really doesn't matter, it's still a crime," acting magistrate Mal MacPherson said.
Barrister Neal Funnell submitted his client was not a co-accused of Mark McDonald – the target of the secret police operation, code-named Strike Force Kotza – which captured Hill buying cocaine from him, culminating in his arrest in February.
Whether it was for your own pleasure, whether it was self-medicating, really doesn't matter, it's still a crime.- Acting magistrate Mal MacPherson
He said media coverage, tendering several articles from The Northern Daily Leader, portrayed his client as a co-accused of a “significant drug dealer in this area”.
“Mr Hill is in no way shape or form a co-accused of Mr [Mark] McDonald,” Mr Funnell said, telling the court he was an associate.
“He was caught up in this operation because of his association with Mr McDonald.
“He was effectively a customer of Mr McDonald.”
The court heard Hill purchased 7g of cocaine and “half of that was for himself, half of that was for a friend” as they headed for a “buck’s weekend”.
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Mr Funnell said this “was an isolated offence” and Hill was “effectively acting as a conduit between his friend and Mr McDonald”.
Mr Funnell said Hill had been on strict bail including daily reporting and curfews for months and "he lost quite a bit of business because of his bail conditions".
He said “the adverse and unfair portrayal of him in the media, on multiple occasions” because “everyone reads the local paper” had also contributed.
He's been associated with Mr McDonald, he's been named in the media as a co-accused of Mr McDonald … it's effectively tarred Mr Hill with the same brush.- Barrister Neal Funnell
“He's been associated with Mr McDonald, he's been named in the media as a co-accused of Mr McDonald … it's effectively tarred Mr Hill with the same brush,” Mr Funnell said.
“Word has got around, it has affected his business, somewhat unfairly."
He said Hill was “using cocaine to self-medicate” but since his arrest had sought help and undergone drug and alcohol counselling to address “those underlying issues”.
In sentencing, Mr MacPherson said “Mr Hill got caught up in the investigation, covert investigation … which snared a number of persons in the community".
Mr MacPherson said Hill was initially charged with supplying 14g of cocaine but the prosecution was unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was for the purposes of supply, and noted his “low-level involvement”.
You bought that on entirely yourself.- Acting magistrate Mal MacPherson
He said Hill was only to blame for his offending, adding “one can see the benefit of the publicity, it's unlikely you'll be back”.
“You bought that on entirely yourself,” he said.
“It’s a worry when one sees this sort of behaviour, when you get caught, it affects a whole lot of people around you."
Hill was given a 25 per cent discount for his early guilty plea, fined $2,000 and convicted of supply.
McDonald remains behind bars awaiting sentence for drug supply offences.