Fine mess: Woman escapes drug charge without conviction

A JUDGE has been forced to fine a woman who played a role in a Mildura drug trafficking syndicate, rather than placing her on a community corrections order (CCO) as was deemed most suitable, due to jurisdictional restrictions between Victoria and South Australia.

Leasha Dianne Eastwood pleaded guilty to drug possession and subsequently fined $3000 when she faced a sitting of the County Court in Mildura yesterday.

The former childcare worker and now pregnant mother of two was arrested in December last year as part of a major drug investigation by the Melbourne Divisional Response Unit which targeted Eastwood’s co-accused, Taylor Stewart and Dallas Ferguson.

On December 7 last year police pulled a vehicle over in Ouyen, with Ferguson in the drivers’ seat and Eastwood and another co-accused, Jayden Ireland, as passengers.

During a vehicle search, police located a lock box on top of Eastwood’s handbag, containing 96.6g of methamphetamine inside snap lock bags, the court was told.

Eastwood’s defence counsel Jacqualyn Turfrey yesterday said her client had played a passive role in the syndicate and did not profit or participate in the sale of the drugs.

However, she did admit to allowing her co-accused into her house to weigh and bag the drugs on multiple occasions, the court heard.

Ms Turfrey outlined the contents of a psychological report tendered to the court, which described Eastwood as having an “immature” sense of what’s right and wrong.

The report said being a long-term victim of past domestic violence had left her socially naïve with low self-esteem, which may have left her vulnerable to manipulation.

However Judge Mark Taft said that was a “preposterous conclusion” and while he accepted she may be vulnerable, he stated she had willingly engaged in the offending.

 The court was told Eastwood had previously lived on Phillip Island where she developed a drinking problem which often saw her consume five bottles of Jack Daniels each week, and after moving back home to Mildura, she became a recreational ice user.

Since the December incident, Ms Turfrey said her client had relocated to South Australia and ceased all communication with those involved in the syndicate.

However, since the move, the court was told Eastwood had received a death threat from an anonymous caller and was told one of her co-accused had been trying to locate her. 

Yesterday Eastwood agreed to give evidence against her co-accused when they appear at a committal hearing at the Mildura Magistrates’ Court in January.

Judge Taft said he wanted to place Eastwood on a CCO, however expressed his frustration at that not being an option.

“The obvious sentence would be a CCO, however it is precluded, she can’t be penalised because South Australian authorities won’t permit the transfer of a Victorian CCO, that leaves limited sentencing options, but that’s the reality,” he said. 

Eastwood was yesterday fined $3000 without conviction.

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