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Byron Shire
May 14, 2021

Byron Bay teenage drug dealer escapes jail time

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A clearly relieved Flynn Brown outside Lismore Court this morning following the judge's decision that he could serve his sentence in the community. Photo Rodney Stevens
A clearly relieved Flynn Brown outside Lismore Court this morning following the judge’s decision that he could serve his sentence in the community. Photo Rodney Stevens

An earlier version of this story stated that Mr Brown also sold crystal methamphetamine (ice). We accept that this is not correct and apologise for inadvertently suggesting that he did.

Rodney Stevens

Before Byron Bay teenager Flynn Brown was ordered to be assessed for an intensive corrections order in the District Court on Friday he admitted he ‘was out of control’ during 2016 when he was supplying drugs including cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis to friends and undercover police.

But such was his turnaround and rehabilitation over the past six months following three days of incarceration, Judge Laura Wells found his circumstances exceptional and is exploring a non-custodial sentence rather than the maximum penalty of 20 years jail.

The 18 year-old former Byron Bay High School student was represented by barrister John Weller when he appeared at Lismore District Court.

Mr Brown, an aspiring landscape gardener, was supported at court by more than 15 people, including his parents, friends and community members.

Following an investigation and police surveillance over several months, Mr Brown’s father’s unit was raided on December 7, the court heard, with officers seizing cocaine, ecstasy, viagra and cannabis.

He was arrested and taken to Byron Bay police station where he was charged with five counts of possessing a prohibited drug, seven counts of supplying a prohibited drug and one count of ongoing supply of a prohibited drug.

After being refused bail by police, Mr Brown spent three days in custody before he was released on conditional bail.

Before Mr Brown took to the stand to give evidence, Mr Weller submitted documents for Judge Wells to consider, including a pre-sentence report, sentencing submissions, Mr Brown’s criminal history, court attendance reports, medical reports, fortnightly urinalysis results and two references.

‘Clearly, under the law, full time custody is definitely the appropriate sentence unless there are exceptional circumstances,’ Mr Weller said.

During his teenage years, Mr Weller said Mr Brown’s parents separated and divorced, with both suffering significant mental health issues,

‘This young man was left virtually parentless from year seven up until his arrest,’ he said.

Flynn Brown and a supporter outside Lismore Court. Photo Rodney Stevens
Flynn Brown and a supporter outside Lismore Court. Photo Rodney Stevens

On the stand, Mr Brown said he began using drugs when he was ’12 going on 13 years of age.’

‘I started smoking weed…and I started drinking alcohol,’ he said.

‘The first time I smoked weed was at a friends party.’

In his first two years at high school, Mr Brown said he got caught with cannabis at school and was cautioned by the police.

‘But it was still around me and I got back into it,’ he said.

Aged 14, Mr Brown began working at The Falls Festival and Splendour in the Grass setting up tents and teepees and cleaning up.

It was there his drug use escalated from cannabis to ‘party drugs’.

‘Everyone at the festival talked about taking ecstasy and using drugs,’ he said.

‘I started using ecstasy at the festival when I was 17 years of age…and it just went on from then.

‘I started using cocaine when I was 18…my friend got me some at a festival and I liked it.

‘In 2016 after the festivals I stopped using MDMA and used cocaine more.’

It was then he began ‘dealing’.

‘I bought eight balls, which is three-and-a-half grams at a time, and I put two (grams) in bags and sold them,’ Mr Brown said.

He started supplying drugs in August 2016 and continued, while under surveillance, until October, selling to undercover police on three occasions.

‘I was out of control, I was always taking drugs,’ Mr Brown said.

‘They (undercover police) said they wanted an eight ball of cocaine and I sourced that.

‘Ten days later they called me and they wanted MDMA.

‘Then they kept calling me.’

Did you reply, Judge Wells asked?

‘No.’

On October 18, Mr Brown said he stopped dealing when he realised ‘it was a bad world and it wasn’t for him.’

Straight away he began rehabilitating himself by going to counselling, providing fortnightly urine samples proving he was clean, working, and volunteering at the Byron Bay Liberation Larder.

That was until his world was turned upside down when police conducted a search warrant on December 7, and he was refused bail for three days.

‘It was the worst three days of my life,’ Mr Brown said.

‘I was scared.

‘That was the first three days I had been without (using) drugs for a couple of months.

‘I was away from my friends, my family and all the things that I love.’

Since his arrest, Mr Brown said he had received an enormous amount of community support.

‘It made me think about what I want to do with my life,’ he said.

As part of his rehabilitation, Mr Brown completed a small business course and hopes to eventually take over his father’s landscape gardening business.

‘I’m going to take over the business with a couple of friends and I’m going to expand it,’ he said.

The day before his arrest, December 6, was the last time Mr Brown took drugs.

‘I’m not clouded and hazy all the time,’ he said.

‘I have a lot more energy…I have all my energy back.

‘I didn’t see the bad side of drugs, I only saw people having fun.’

Mr Weller said to be left without parents at a young age, and the self-motivated rehabilitation Mr Brown had undertaken was exceptional.

‘I’d ask your honour to make a finding of exceptional circumstances in this case,’ he said.

But crown prosecutor Hannah Bruce submitted Mr Brown’s situation wasn’t exceptional.

‘The crown acknowledges there have been significant steps on the part of the defendant to rehabilitate himself,’ she said.

Police were issued a warrant on September 15, Judge Wells said, and began phone and text message intercepts on Mr Brown.

On September 17, he sold an eight ball of 24.5% pure cocaine, and five capsules of 75.5% pure MDMA, worth $1100, to an undercover officer.

Then in October he sold 13.78 grams of 78% pure MDMA on one occasion, and 55 grams of 78% pure MDMA for the final time to police.

Judge Wells said Mr Brown had no prior criminal record and the court was provided extensive material relating to his personal circumstances.

She said after his parents separated in 2008, Mr Brown was left with ‘very little in the way of parental guidance and support.’

‘Since his arrest he has taken significant steps toward his rehabilitation and that suggests to the court that he is unlikely to reoffend,’ Judge Wells said.

Taking into account an appropriate punishment, the protection of the community and the message of deterrence that must be sent to the community in sentencing, Judge Wells said the appropriate sentence would be two years jail.

‘I will consider his sentence to be carried out by the way of intensive corrections order, so he will need to be assessed,’ Judge Wells said.

Offenders on intensive corrections orders have their rehabilitation managed in the community by a Community Corrections Officer, and undergo 32 hours of unpaid community service work each month.

Mr Brown’s matters were adjourned until July 11 at Lismore District Court.

He remains on conditional bail until that date.

 


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7 COMMENTS

  1. Easy to just say “I’m sorry” after 3 days in jail. We can all say sorry after we’ve been caught. A few months graftin’ at Grafton will make him really sorry for all the damage he may have caused.

  2. I suggest that going to jail wouldn’t do this young man any good . Substance abuse and addiction is an illness best treated in long term rehabilitation.
    The judge should sentence him by way of a rehabilitation programme . At least 1 year. Change takes time and hard work .getting a job etc doesn’t heal …I run an outreach support called northern rivers homeless alliance in the area .

  3. Jon….what an ignorant comment. You seem to think the barbaric NSW prison system should be levelled as a punishment to offenders. The best thing that can happen fro everyone in the community is for Flynn to be rehabilitated and become a productive member of society. Having him further traumatized and and violated in Grafton jail would serve no purpose to anybody.

    • I agree, the kid got caught up in what amounts to pretty minor crimes when all is said and done and has shown a willingness to join the community. If he had a custodial sentence he would face a ridiculously high chance of recividism, and the numbers show that the severity of the crime tends to escalate.

      Why put impressionable young people into jail for non-violent crimes (even with violent ones we should still try to exhaust all alternative avenues) where they learn how to deal with issues through state-sanctione violence, when many of them can join the community and learn far more valuable skills? The further you push an individual away from society the more they will push back.

      The “war on drugs” has taught us that treating drug abuse as anything other than a social-health issue is wastefully expensive, ostracises some of the most vulnerable people in our community and is moralistic BS that entirely overlooks the reasons why so much of the youth are drawn to this form of escapism.

      Also it just doesn’t work.

  4. The thing that sickens me about this is the trash coming out of the Crown Prosecutor’s mouth. Not exceptional? The problem with these second rate lawyers who have a chip on their shoulder cause they could never make it in commercial legal practice is that it is the community that suffers. Prosecutorial incompetence is starting to warrant a public enquiry.

  5. I know this young man personally, and he is a good kid, caught up with the wrong people, easily led astray, he needs a kick up the ass but most of all a strong father figure. We all do stupid shit in our lives, and it’s up to us to rehabilitate ourselves and seek help. Jail would destroy any man, and introduce him to the wrong people.

    There are kids like this all over Australia that just need to be pointed in the right direction, how are you to know what the have endured in their childhood.

  6. “We accept that this is not correct and apologise for inadvertently suggesting that he did” are words that are becomingly unnervingly familiar of late. It has been stated repeatedly that Flynn sold ICE. Such reports have been shown to be untrue and misleading, and are retracted, only to be reported again as fact in the next instance.

    Selling ICE was not mentioned in Court, nor was it mentioned in the initial charges, so one wonders why it proves so difficult for facts to be checked before setting words out on paper or trumpeting them across the internet.

    Such ‘inadvertent’ oversights really do matter, you see, because, as a result of such erroneous reporting, this young man and his family continue to face renewed hostility and stress for something he’s actually never done.

    Yes, Flynn has made mistakes, but he has also demonstrated remorse, taken steps to make restitution, and a very well informed Judge has shown him leniency because of exceptional circumstances and presumably because she recognises Flynn’s essential goodness and worth, despite his mistakes.

    “Inadvertently suggesting” appears to be a convenient explanation for either sloppy work, an overactive imagination (neither especially useful in a career where well-researched facts are deemed indispensable), or, worse, a partial fabrication where a young man’s character and his path to complete rehabilitation become a lower priority than dramatising an already over-reported news item. For pity’s sake!

    Judge Laura Wells demonstrated both compassion and wisdom in this case. What a wonderful thing it would be to see the Echo move back in the direction of humane and factual reporting.

    Please give this young man a chance to thrive.

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