Drug Trafficking Hung jury Case Study
Drug Trafficking Charges
- 2 charges pursuant to ss 11.5(1) and 307.5(1) Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) – Conspiracy to possess commercial quantity of border controlled drug (methamphetamine and heroin).
- 2 charges pursuant to ss 11.5(1) and 307.1 Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) – Conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug (methamphetamine and heroin).
- 2 charges pursuant to ss 11.1 and 307.5 Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) – Attempt to possess a commercial quantity of an unlawfully imported border controlled drug (methamphetamine and heroin).
According to the above legislation to be found guilty of conspiring to commit a crime:
(a) The accused must have entered into an agreement with one or more people;
(b) The accused and at least another person to the agreement must have intended that the relevant offence be committed; and
(c) Any person to the agreement must have committed an overt act in accordance to that agreement.
Should my client be found guilty of the above offences they faced a fine of up to $1.35m or life imprisonment. These severe penalties occur as a result of the alleged “commercial quantity” of the drugs sought to be imported.
Several people conducted an enterprise to smuggle Heroin and Methamphetamine from Hong Kong to Australia. A ceramics trading company was set up as a front for this operation.
Initially the enterprise started trading ceramic items into Australia. This assisted to establish a history of trading. It also provided them with the opportunity to review how customs officials work in Australia and the manner they inspect imported products.
After several importations of ceramic items the enterprise commenced smuggling methamphetamines and heroin. The drugs would be packed into the ceramic items before importation to Australia. These ceramic items containing the drugs would then be transported by trucks.
Our client was alleged to have consulted with those involved in the enterprise. He is alleged to have been tasked with the unloading of the items. When interviewed by police our client confirmed:
- He came to Australia to pay off a large Hong Kong gambling debt;
- He stayed in Australia for 2 – 3 days despite informing officials he would be present for one month; and
- The containers he was unloading contained something illegal but he did not know the contents of the containers
Our client worked as an electrician in Hong Kong and has a limited ability to speak English. He was also orphaned at a young age and had no friends and family. Our client was a problem gambler and had a large gambling debt owed to the Hong Kong Triads. To work off this debt he came to Australia and undertook work unloading packed deliveries from shipping containers.
The other parties to the enterprise did not allow him freedom of movement or phone access. This lack of accessibility meant he did not know the contents of the shipping containers or the purpose of the work.
Our conduct of the case
The prosecution relied on CCTV footage and phone recordings to charge our client. We informed the court that our client did not have knowledge he was performing illegal acts and his acts were performed under duress. We argued our client’s lack of knowledge based on his restriction of movement and phone access. We referred to monies owing to the triads, and possible death or serious injury if they remained unpaid, to establish duress.
This matter proceeded to trial where a jury is to determine whether our client was guilty of the charges. The jury was unable to deliver a unanimous verdict so the matter proceeded to a second trial. At the second trial the jury was also unable to reach a unanimous verdict. As a result our client was not convicted of the charges whilst all other accused persons in the enterprise were found guilty.
By raising the issues of insufficient knowledge and duress the jury was unable to unanimously reach a guilty verdict. The unanimous verdict was not reached because the jury had doubts about our client’s knowledge and intentions to commit a crime. If these issues were not raised at trial the jury may have found our client guilty.
At George Sten & Co we exclusively practice criminal law. This allows us to provide quality service and representation. As can be seen in this case study we are able to obtain the best outcomes for our clients. By using our services this client avoided severe criminal sanctions which may have included life imprisonment, a $1.35m fine or both.