On 15 February 2021 our Principal, Dan Rogers, lead a ‘Judge for Yourself’ session at Calamvale, Queensland.

Judge for Yourself is an interactive program that allows Queenslanders to play the role of judge or magistrate and sentence an offender in court. It is an initiative of the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council (‘QSAC’), whose role includes informing and engaging the public on the complex nature of sentencing procedures in court.  As a member of QSAC, Dan regularly runs interactive sessions where members of the community are presented a case based on real life events, shown evidence from both the prosecution and defence, and are then invited to pass a sentence.  The exercise is an important one – it helps the community understand the basic justifications upon which a sentence can be imposed as well as the different sentencing options available.

In Queensland, the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 (Qld) guides judicial decision making. The ‘governing principles’ of all sentences imposed in Queensland, as set out by section 9, are punishment, rehabilitation, deterrence, denunciation and protection of the wider community.  The session at Calamvale concerned a drug trafficking case. In the exercise, the Defendant, Christopher Quinn, pleaded guilty to the criminal offence of ‘trafficking in a dangerous drug.’

At first the participants were shown a news clip, which makes a reference to the dangerous nature of methylamphetamine – the drug trafficked Mr Quinn. Participants were then asked to pass a sentence simply on their opinion formulated by the bulletin. Afterwards, participants were shown submissions from the Prosecution and Defence, highlighting both the serious nature of the crime and the personal circumstances of Mr Quinn – he is a father who turned to drug use due to family illness.  Ultimately, the result of the Judge for Yourself exercise was that Mr Quinn was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment in total, with the Judge ordering that he received a suspended sentence and be released after 12 months. The case provided a great way to unpack some of the complex issues surrounding sentencing. Community participants were actively engaged in the exercise which was excellent.

Trafficking Generally

In Queensland, the trafficking of drugs is made a crime by virtue of the Drugs Misuse Act 1986 (Qld) (‘the Act’). Importantly, the Act distinguishes between ‘Schedule 1’ drugs and ‘Schedule 2’ drugs.

Schedule 1 drugs include Amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, LSD, methylamphetamine and MDMA or ecstasy. Accordingly, they are seen as the ‘more serious’ drugs and attract the more serious sentences. If found guilty of an offence involved a Schedule 1 drug the maximum term of imprisonment is 25 years.

Schedule 2 include cannabis, codeine, methadone, morphine, opium and oxycodone. Accordingly, they are seen as the ‘less serious’ drugs and attract lesser sentences. If found guilty of an offence involving a Schedule 2 drug the maximum term of imprisonment is 20 years.

Trafficking of a drug involves the sale of a drug. As held Martin v Osborne (1936) 55 CLR 376 it must be established that by selling the drugs, the person did so in the course of business. Thus, the Prosecution must show that the sale of the drug involved some level of commerciality. However, there need not be any financial benefit to the person themselves for trafficking to be made out.  If charged with trafficking, there are some possible defences that may be raised, including that the person was acting under duress, that the person has a mental impairment that meant they were not able to understand the nature of their actions, or the drug is not listed in any schedule of the Act.

It is our experience that trafficking offences often attract a term of imprisonment. Although it is always important that defence lawyers highlight to the court any mitigating factors in the circumstances, such as good character or lack of criminal history.