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A sentence for supplying heroin

A sentence for supplying heroin on an ongoing basis to an undercover operative was suspended in light of the offender’s extraordinary circumstances

The District Court’s decision in R v Glen Michael Rootsey [2015] NSWDC 98, illustrates how judges in NSW decide upon sentences in drug cases. Rootsey was sentenced on two charges:

  • Supply a prohibited drug (heroin) on an ongoing basis, in violation of section 25A(1) of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (DMTA). The maximum terms of imprisonment for the offence is 20 years.
  • Supply a prohibit drug (2.78 grams of heroin), in violation of section 25(1) of the DMTA. The maximum term of imprisonment for the offence is 15 years.

The Crown consented to a dismissal of three other charges of supplying heroin. Rootsey was in custody for nearly 5 months before the Supreme Court granted bail.

Facts of the case

On six occasions, Rootsey traveled from Cooma to the ACT with a man who was cooperating with the police. On each occasion, Rootsey acquired 2.78 grams of heroin, which he sold to the undercover operative for $1,050. On a later occasion, Rootsey sold the operative 12.19 grams of heroin for $4,000. Rootsey was subsequently arrested in Cooma.

Offender’s background

Rootsey is 41 years old. He has used heroin in between periods of abstinence since he was 23. He has been in treatment programs, most recently between December 2010 and August 2014.

When Rootsey acquired drugs for the undercover operative, he always kept a small amount for his own use. Rootsey explained that he was motivated to help the undercover operative acquire drugs so that he could obtain some for himself. He said that he obtained the operative’s assurance that the heroin would not be redistributed in Cooma.

Rootsey’s criminal history includes a recent conviction for possessing prohibited drugs. He was punished for that offence with a fine. His only experiences as a drug dealer were induced by the undercover operative.

Rootsey has an 18 year old daughter. He has provided her with financial support since separating from her mother 17 years ago. He maintains a good relationship with his daughter. Rootsey is an unemployed pastry cook who finds occasional work making deliveries of bread.

Other facts relevant to sentencing

The pre-sentence report assessed Rootsey has having a low to medium risk of reoffending. The report indicated that Rootsey would benefit form a period of Community Supervision with drug treatment and monitoring to assure abstinence.

Rootsey’s mother and his employer both attested to his good character and to his struggles with drug abuse. They believe he gave in to pressure from the undercover operative and was essentially helping someone who claimed to be suffering from withdrawal.

The drugs that Rootsey sold were substantially less than a commercial quantity (250 grams) but, in the aggregate, more than an indictable quantity (5 grams). Rootsey voluntarily stopped supplying the drugs despite continuing pressure from the operative to supply more.

The Crown argued that a custodial sentence should always be imposed for a drug supply conviction in the absence of extraordinary circumstances. It argued that no such circumstances existed in Rootsey’s case.

Sentencing decision

Rootsey was an unsophisticated supplier and was at the bottom of the supply chain. Rootsey’s negligible criminal history, his remorse and acceptance of responsibility, his efforts to remain drug-free during his release on bail, and the fact that he did not profit from his crime (other than to feed his own addiction) were all mitigating factors. The court regarded the multiple instances of drug supply as an aggravating factor that threatened public safety, but viewed the drug quantity involved as at the low end of the range of objective seriousness.

The court found that two exceptional circumstances existed. First, Rootsey stopped supplying the undercover operative despite being pressured to supply more drugs. Second, Rootsey sought assurances that the drugs would not be resold.

In light of all those facts, the court sentenced Rootsey to 148 days for violating section 25(1) and deemed that sentence served by the time he was in custody prior to obtaining bail. The court sentenced Rootsey to 18 months imprisonment for violating section 25A(1) but suspended that sentence and placed him under the supervision of the Community Corrections Service.

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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