Clarity Law

Specialist Criminal Law Firm Queensland
Sunday, 27 August 2023 17:16

Can you be charged with supplying a dangerous drug to yourself?

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supply dangerous drug

In the recent case of R v Willis [2023] QSC 190 in the Supreme Court of Queensland had to decide whether someone could supply a drug to themselves.

The defendant, Dylan Lee Willis, pleaded guilty to a charge of possessing a dangerous drug but not guilty to the charge of unlawfully supplying the (MDMA) to himself. The trial took place in Cairns, and the case was presided over by Judge Henry J. The trial occurred on August 8 and 9, 2023, with the verdict delivered on August 9, 2023.

The prosecution presented a circumstantial case, focusing on the evidence of the arresting officer, a friend of the defendant who lived in the same residence, and various evidentiary admissions.

The evidence showed that on June 6, 2021, the police opened a postal package containing MDMA at the Bungalow Mail Centre in Cairns. The package was addressed to a person named Lilly Ryan at a specific address in Edmonton, Queensland. Subsequently, a search warrant was executed at that address, and in a bedroom, three empty mail packages with similar addresses were found, along with handwritten codes similar to the one on the seized package.

The defendant's friend testified that he had been living with the defendant but provided no details about how long he had lived there or how often the defendant was present at the residence. No evidence was presented about the defendant's employment, habits, or activities, either in Cairns or elsewhere.

The prosecution argued that the evidence was sufficient to sustain the inference that the defendant had some role in the process of ordering and sending the package containing MDMA. However, the judge found that the evidence was too vague to establish the offense of supplying the drug. The judge emphasized that while there were gaps in the evidence, the critical issue was whether there was enough evidence to rationally support the inference sought by the prosecution.

Ultimately, the judge concluded that he proved facts sustained the inference that the accused had some knowing role in the process by which the content of the seized package came to be sent and was to be received. But that inference is too vague of itself to constitute the offence charged there was no evidence capable of proving the guilty inference sought by the prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge highlighted that there was a lack of evidence showing the defendant's role in the process of ordering, packaging, and sending the drug, and there was no evidence connecting the defendant's actions to an offense in Queensland.

As a result, the judge directed a verdict of acquittal, meaning that the jury was instructed to return a verdict of not guilty due to the lack of evidence to support the charges against the defendant. The judge also noted other difficulties in the prosecution's case, such as issues with the alleged date of the offense and the geographic location.

In summary, the case revolved around the defendant's alleged supply of MDMA to himself, but the judge found that the evidence presented by the prosecution was insufficient to establish the charges, leading to a directed verdict of acquittal.

While the judge did state a person cannot supply a drug to themselves he did not go further in that explanation as he found there was not sufficient evidence of a crime in the first place.

 

Supplying drugs to yourself

In R v Maroney [2000] QCA 310 the court had to decide if someone could supply a drug to themselves.

Briefly the facts of the case were that in a series of telephone calls from the defendant Maroney from his prison to his co-offender Watson, formerly a fellow prisoner but by then released, the defendant initiated and arranged with Watson for the supply to him of heroin in prison. That arrangement was that for a sum of money Watson would procure the co-offender Miller to attend the prison as a visitor for the purpose of conveying a quantity of heroin to an inmate other than the defendant who, in turn, would pass it on to the defendant. Because these telephone conversations were recorded the police were able to intercept Miller with the heroin in her possession. The defendant was a heroin user and he intended it for his personal use.

The case turned on whether you could supply a drug to yourself.

Section 6 of the Drugs Misuse Act 1986 under which the charge was laid provides:

"A person who unlawfully supplies a dangerous drug to another, whether or not such other person is in Queensland, is guilty of a crime."

The key term is “supplies a dangerous drug to another”.

Judge McPherson summed up the difficulty of supplying a drug to yourself as follows

It seems to me to be plain that, in speaking of "another", s 6 predicates the existence of at least two persons, one of whom is the person who supplies the drug and the other the person who is supplied. There must, in other words, be at least one other person ("another"), apart from the supplier, to whom the drug is supplied. In drafting the provisions of s 6, there was strictly speaking no need to have said supplies "to another". It would perhaps have been enough simply to have said "supplies". No doubt, however, the reason why "another" was inserted was so as to go on and make it clear that the offence could be committed if the person to whom the drug was supplied ("such other person") was in Queensland or outside it at the time it was supplied.

All three appeal court judges concluded that a person could not supply a drug to themselves.

However this was not the end of the matter. The criminal code that controls the criminal law in Queensland has the following section:

                "Principal Offenders

7 (1)When an offence is committed, each of the following persons is deemed to have taken part in committing the offence and to be guilty of the offence, and may be charged with actually committing it, that is to say –

  …

(d) any person who counsels or procures any other person to commit the offence.

(2) Under subsection (1)(d) the person may be charged either with committing the offence or with counselling or procuring its commission.

(3) A conviction of counselling or procuring the commission of an offence entails the same consequences in all respects as a conviction of committing the offence.

Two of the three judges found that Maroney had under s 7(1)(d) of the Criminal Code counselling or procuring the other two accused to commit the offence of supplying a drug to him. Section 7(1) of the Code provides that, when an offence is committed, each of a number of specified persons is deemed "to have taken part in the offence"; and "to be guilty of" the offence; and may be charged "with actually committing it". By s 7(1)(d) those persons include any person who counsels or procures any other person to commit the offence. 

In summary if Maroney had been charged alone like in the case of R v Willis he could not be found guilty of supplying a dangerous drug to himself but because he had procured other people to supply the drug to himself then he could be found guilty as he organised others to supply the drug. It was in essence the other co-defendants actions in supplying drugs that caused Maloney to be found guilty.

For more information of supplying dangerous drugs check out our website.

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Steven Brough

Steven Brough is a criminal defence lawyer and founder of Clarity Law with over 22 years experience he has appeared in almost every court in Queensland representing clients charged with criminal offences and getting them the best outcome possible.