When 30 men known as the Nimbin Lane Boys who were charged by Strike Force Cuppa in 2016 walked into Lismore Local Court on Thursday with their supporters, nobody expected the sentences handed down by Sydney Magistrate Alexander Mijovich.
Appointed to the bench of the Local Court by the NSW Bar Association in 2010, Mr Mijovich, who has a legal practice at Manly, quickly made it apparent that defendants with prior drug matters, or those on good behaviour bonds, were going to jail.
What was to be determined by Mr Mijovich was how long of his two-year maximum jurisdiction each defendant would serve, and how they would serve their terms.
Ethan Rhodes and Jimmy Hill were the first defendants before the court, represented by solicitor Cameron Bell.
Mr Bell said he was seeking medical reports on both clients that will assist at sentencing and asked for their matters to be adjourned until August 31.
Medical material must be filed and served on the prosecution, Mr Mijovich said, before adjourning matters for both men until August 31.
Both Mr Rhodes and Mr Hill remain on conditional bail until their next court appearance.
But when James Brown was told being on a good behaviour bond wasn’t a sufficient deterrent, and he was asked by Mr Mijovich to step into the dock, an audible gasp flooded the court and the mood forever changed.
‘He’s going to jail,’ one woman said from the public gallery.
The 32-year-old father of three was disqualified from driving for six months and fined $400 for drug driving.
Mr Brown was sentenced to 12 months jail with a non-parole period of eight months on the charge of taking part in the supply of a prohibited drug.
He was also sentenced to three months jail on the charge of having goods in custody, which related to $1,310 cash he was carrying when arrested.
On her way back to Queensland, Mr Brown’s solicitor Ms Ward lodged his appeal papers at Tweed Heads Local Court, which were sent to Lismore and he was granted bail pending his appeal.
When barrister John Weller requested an adjournment to seek a medical report for his client Huon Campbell, this was not opposed by prosecutor Brett Gradisnik.
Mr Campbell’s conditional bail was continued and Mr Mijovich ordered medical material to be filed and served by August 30, and adjourned his matter until August 31.
Solicitor Tracey Randall then put in a strong, spirited representation for Zachary Fuller, stating his late plea of guilty to the charge of taking part in the supply of a prohibited drug wasn’t entirely his fault.
‘When the matters were charged there were a significant lack of particulars in relation to the defendants,’ Ms Randall said.
She told the court there was ‘effectively a generic description for each defendant’ in the police charges, then the prosecution refused to produce the CCTV the police relied on as evidence.
The more than three months of CCTV footage was subpoenaed, Ms Randall said, and following a legal argument in court it was conceded by the prosecution they had to produce the footage.
‘What was produced were 15 minute interval files,’ Ms Randall said.
‘It was very difficult to marry up the particulars in relation to the involvement of the individuals.’
Ms Randall said she understood the Richmond Local Area Commander devoted additional police resources to the matters.
‘Then we were provided with particulars regarding the involvement of each of the individuals,’ Ms Randall said.
She said the defendants played a big part in negotiating with the prosecution to obtain the particulars applicable to each defendant so a plea could be entered.
The nature of the Nimbin township, was something Mr Mijovich should consider in sentencing Ms Randall said.
‘Nimbin has a long history of cannabis use within the community in a normalised way,’ she said.
‘Mr Fuller was a young man that was raised in the community and the effect that has had on him is that he has seen a normalisation of cannabis use in the community.’
‘I can’t put any weight on the submission that it was normal for young people growing up in Nimbin,’ Mr Mijovich said.
Despite the submission from Ms Randall that Mr Fuller, who worked and volunteered in the community, would benefit from a suspended sentence, Mr Mijovich disagreed.
‘Case law says a full time custodial sentence applies,’ Mr Mijovich said.
‘You were actively involved in the supply of drugs in that area.
The court heard Mr Fuller had been captured on CCTV for 10 days.
He was sentenced to nine months jail with a non-parole period of six months and is eligible for release on January 26, 2018.
For breaching a good behaviour bond he was jailed for three months.
A female supporter burst into tears when Mr Fullers sentence was handed down.
For four days of a five day period, Dion Wales was captured on CCTV at Nimbin’s Rainbow Lane, the court heard.
His barrister John Weller submitted his client, who had no prior record, should get a suspended sentence.
‘He was juggling balls financially in terms of three children and lapsed into criminality,’ Mr Weller said.
Mr Mijovich convicted Mr Wales and ordered him to served a five month suspended sentence.
Solicitor Naomi Carter applied for Pavo Robert Topping‘s matter to be adjourned until August 31 to obtain medical reports.
The adjournment was granted by Mr Mijovich.
Having no prior drug matters and not being on a good behaviour bond went in Ruben Mack‘s favour, Mr Mijovich said.
His barrister John Weller conceded he had been captured on CCTV for seven days over two separate months at Rainbow Lane, and said he had been assessed by probation and parole of being at a low risk of reoffending.
‘At 26 years-of-age you decide to start with one of the highest level of offences under NSW law,’ Mr Mijovich said.
Mr Mack was ordered to serve an eight months suspended jail sentence.
The court heard Jesse Levy was captured on CCTV for only two days during the police operation.
He was the sole carer for his four children aged between six and 12, Mr Weller said.
Mr Mijovich ordered him to serve a five month suspended sentence on the charge of taking part in the supply of a prohibited drug.
Hayden Peter Allen appeared before Mr Mijovich having been caught on CCTV over eight days between February 3 April 14 but with no prior record.
‘Im suspending this sentence purely on your record, no other reason,’ Mr Mijovich said.
He was ordered to serve an eight month suspended sentence.
Evan Ogle was also captured on CCTV over eight days and had no prior matters on his record.
Mr Mijovich ordered him to serve an eight month suspended sentence, which Mr Ogle will complete when he returns to work in Western Australia.
Barrister John Weller applied for an adjournment to obtain medical reports to assist in sentencing his client Jake Stanton.
His matters were adjourned until August 14 and he remains on conditional bail.
‘I don’t care what you grew up with, its illegal,’ Mr Mijovich said when sentencing Kalen Petrie to an eight month suspended sentence.
Tobi Cox, 30, received a term of nine months jail, with a non-parole period of six months, eligible for release on January 26, 2018.
Chilo Pike is due to undergo intensive detoxification today his solicitor Ms Hunter told the court. His matters were adjourned until August 31 so he can undergo the treatment.
Beau Mollloy-Grabousky received a term of nine months jail, with a non-parole period of six months, eligible for release on January 26, 2018.
Tom World pleaded guilty to taking part in the supply of a prohibited drug, his first offence, and was convicted and ordered to serve a 10 month suspended sentence.
Joseph Walkenshaw Hunter‘s matters of taking part in the supply and habitually consorting with convicted offenders were adjourned until August 14.
Ben James Yasserie was jailed for 10 months, with a non parole period of three months, eligible for release on October 26, 2017.
Ryan James Hawken was sentenced to 12 months with a non parole period of eight months, eligible for release on 27 March, 2018.
Tamita Peheku was ordered to serve a three month suspended sentence for taking part in the supply of a prohibited drug.
Mahalie Bayles had his matters adjourned until August 31 to obtain medical reports.
During the afternoon, Mr Mijovich divided the remaining matters, eliminating ones Magistrate David Heilpern had disqualified himself from hearing.
These matters were heard before Mr Heilpern in court four.
Christopher Walsh, 29, was sentenced to nine months with a non-parole period of four months, eligible for release on 20 November, 2017.
Daniel Walsh, 33, was placed on a good behaviour bond for two years.
Jesse Ward-Howard was ordered to serve a seven month suspended sentence on four counts of taking part in the supply of a prohibited drug.
Jackson Jordan, 22, was placed on a nine month suspended sentence for taking part in the supply of a prohibited drug.
Harley Ogle pleaded guilty to taking part in the supply of a prohibited drug and was placed on a nine month suspended sentence.
Arpad Foraita was placed on a nine month suspended sentence for taking part in the supply of a prohibited drug.
The seven men who were given jail terms, Christopher Walsh, James Brown, Tobi Cox, Beau Grabovsky, Ryan Hawken, Ben Yasserie and Zachary Fuller lodged appeals against their sentences and were granted bail late yesterday.
The date and location of their appeals was not set late yesterday.