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Byron Shire
March 7, 2021

Magistrate slams police over festival drug case

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Photo epSos.de/Flickr
Photo epSos.de/Flickr

A man caught with four tablets of the illegal drug ecstasy at last year’s Splendour in the Grass festival at Yelgun had the police charge against him thrown out of court this week.

In dismissing the charge against the Mt Isa man, magistrate David Heilpern said taxpayers’ money had been wasted in prosecuting the man, who had pleaded guilty.

But despite the early guilty plea, the case had been adjourned five times in seven months.

The Northern Star reported that the man was spotted by police acting suspiciously near the main gate of the festival site on July 27 last year.

The court was told that when the man saw police and drug-sniffer dogs at the entrance as he approached, he turned back.

The Star said the man was seen trying to remove something from a bag he carried and when police approached him, a drug-detection dog indicated he had illegal drugs.

A search of the bag uncovered five blue ecstasy tablets in a plastic resealable bag hidden inside a sunglasses container.

He was issued with a court attendance notice and pleaded guilty in Byron Bay Court on September 19 to possessing a prohibited drug.

According to the Star, Magistrate Heilpern said, ‘the expense to the public of matters such as this is enormous,’ with the case dragging on over five adjournments.

‘This was five tablets that the police valued at $100,’ Mr Heilpern said.

Mr Heilpern noted the man had no prior convictions in NSW or Queensland, before ordering the drugs be destroyed.

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  1. ‘Soft on druggies, hard on the cops’? You must be joking!
    Australia’s ‘war on drugs’ has turned a lifestyle and health issue into a crime. It takes a principled legal luminary like Magistrate David Heilpern to point out the absurdity of going after a punter with five ecstasy tablets valued by the police at $100, a case that was adjourned five times despite the punter pleading guilty. What was the cost of the police operation and the cost to the public exchequer for this case?
    Under our very noses Australia has morphed from a nanny state into a police state, with large sums and resources spent chasing chimeras, while making criminals of vast numbers of its citizens, especially the young and people of Aboriginal descent.
    By any reckoning it’s a bum trip!

  2. Why was the case adjourned five times ? Overzealousness by the obviously under-occupied police is one thing but a glacial legal system is a real crime against the community. Justice delayed is justice denied.
    Furthermore we are now entertained by Tory politicians bleating for more police while preaching about “lightening the oppressive hand of government”. This case tears the filfthy bandages off the reeking open sore which is a legal system made for the rich, the richest of whom are organised crime and their handsomely paid lawyers. Meanwhile the poor have the legal aid budget slashed and have to plead guilty to “crimes” they didn’t commit to evade financial ruin.


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