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No conviction for drug offender

No conviction for drug offender

A former Ashburton man's unique combination of circumstances has seen him walk away with a discharge without conviction for low-level drug offending.

The 26-year-old was granted permanent name suppression when he appeared before Judge Dominic Dravitzki in the Ashburton District Court on Monday.

He was jointly charged with six counts of supplying cannabis and LSD between May and August last year and faced a maximum sentence of life in prison for the supply of LSD.

The man's lawyer, Rahul George, said the offending was a "blip" in the man's life as demonstrated by how well he had managed on bail. He was now living with his parents and worked as an apprentice plumber.

George said he had submitted information to Judge Dravitzki to support an application for a discharge without conviction on mental health grounds.

On January 30, Judge Dravitzki had given a sentence indication of community detention and supervision. He did not rule out a discharge without conviction but said it would be an "unusual outcome" for such a serious offence - and that he would need to be provided with a lot of information.

In sentencing the man this week, the judge said he had been provided with a lot of supporting information.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Stuart Whyte said police opposed the application for a discharge without conviction and called some of the information into question because a lot of it was self-reported.

Judge Dravitzki said he had to assess whether the consequences of a conviction were out of proportion to the seriousness of the offending for an application for a discharge without conviction.

He said the man's drug dealing was "unsophisticated" and "at the lower end of drug dealing"..

There were two instances where the man had offered to sell drugs on Facebook. Once offering cannabis and once offering LSD. However, the man faced more charges because he was co-charged with his former partner.

Judge Dravitzki said no LSD was found when the home was searched and the amount of cannabis found was less than the usual amount for a charge of possession for supply.

"But charges were laid as supply because you admitted some aspect of supply."

The police also found scales and small ziplock bags, but it was "drug dealing at the lowest end of the scale," he said.

Judge Dravitzki said the man had "no other convictions whatsoever" but had a long history of mental health difficulties and challenges, including self-harm, with "heavy addiction" playing a part in the offending.

The man was desperate after losing his job and fell into drug dealing to support his habit and lifestyle.

The judge said the man had left his former partner, moved towns, and was drug free after completing drug assistance programmes. He was also working gainfully towards an apprenticeship.

Judge Dravitzki said the man had a verifiable history of mental health issues and there was a risk of a significant deterioration in his mental health and the potential of self-harm if the man was convicted.

The judge found the consequences of conviction out of proportion to the gravity of the offending given the "combination of very specific circumstances". He discharged the man without conviction and granted final name suppression.

Judge Dravitzki said there ought to be some degree of parity of sentence with the man's co-defender, but he did not believe her sentence precluded a discharge without conviction.

The man's co-accused was sentenced to six months' community detention and six months' supervision.

by Sharon Davis