Dealing with suspected proceeds of crime
Associate Solicitor Nick Tehan recently represented one of a number of accused. Police had charged them with trafficking drugs of dependence in a commercial quantity. They also charged them with dealing in suspected proceeds of crime, including large quantities of cash and valuables. The evidence against our client was largely reliant on her own admissions, which were extensive. She had made a record of interview without seeking legal advice beforehand. Police had found methyl amphetamine in a commercial quantity.
Mr Tehan briefed Senior Counsel at an early stage in proceedings. Extensive negotiations took place at the committal stage. We analysed the evidence. Mr Tehan demonstrated to the prosecution that even though our client had admitted to possessing the methyl amphetamine, the prosecution could not establish that she knew it was a commercial quantity. Furthermore, we contended that while she knew that the drugs found by police would be trafficked later, the prosecution could not establish that she had ever trafficked drugs in the past or intended to do so in the future.
A guilty plea and no imprisonment
On that basis, we offered for her to plead guilty to one charge of trafficking methyl amphetamine (not a commercial quantity). This was on the basis that she possessed the drugs for sale at a later stage by someone else. The legal definition of trafficking extends to possession for sale. We also offered for her to plead guilty to possessing cannabis, and dealing in suspected proceeds of crime. The prosecution accepted this offer. Ultimately, this meant that we kept our client’s matter in the Magistrates’ Court, where she pleaded guilty to these significantly less serious charges.
With Senior Counsel, we drafted and filed written submissions. These outlined the specific factual basis of her plea of guilty and matters pertaining to her personal circumstances. We tendered a bundle of character references and medical materials. The court handed her a substantial fine and she avoided imprisonment.
The Magistrates’ Court is unable to hear a trial or a plea hearing in relation to a charge of trafficking in a commercial quantity of drugs. The prosecution had amended the charge against our client to one of trafficking in a Drug of Dependence. So, the court granted an application on behalf of our client to have the matter proceed in the Magistrates Court. The case proceeded, avoiding the matter being sent to the County Court for hearing.
This case reinforces the importance of seeking legal advice early. You should do so before speaking with police or giving a record of interview. It is important to remember that each case will be different. The outcomes will depend on an analysis of the evidence, taking careful instructions from our client and careful preparation the case for hearing.