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'Desperate situation': Synthetic cannabis dealing leads to death

Author
Open Justice,
Publish Date
Sat, 21 May 2022, 2:18pm
Photo / File
Photo / File

'Desperate situation': Synthetic cannabis dealing leads to death

Author
Open Justice,
Publish Date
Sat, 21 May 2022, 2:18pm

Synthetic cannabis that was sold by a gang associate to help keep his household afloat killed one person and hospitalised another.

But Tereapii Mataio wasn't criminally responsible for the death of his buyer nor the harm it had caused the other, Judge Gregory Hikaka told New Plymouth District Court on Friday.

The serious and tragic outcomes had been included in the summary of Mataio's offending to highlight the high risks involved with using the illicit drug, he said.

"Synthetic cannabinoids are particularly unpredictable because people can react to them differently," Judge Hikaka said when sentencing the 58-year-old on a charge of dealing controlled drugs.

Over the period of December 2020 to July 2021, Mataio, of Stratford, had sold up to $3800 worth of synthetics.

Crown prosecutor Jacob Bourke argued for a sentence of home detention, saying the court often refers to the harm to the community caused by the sale and distribution of drugs and this case was the "perfect example" of that.

While Mataio wasn't criminally liable for the death, Bourke said he had taken a risk by distributing the drugs.

The offending was premeditated and was of a commercial nature on the basis that Mataio was gaining financial benefits, he said.

Defence lawyer Susan Hughes QC said Mataio was in a desperate situation at the time of his offending.

He had been truck driving for the past two decades but due to health issues his employment ended and he was on a 12-week standdown period with Work and Income.

"That put Mr Mataio in a position where he was unable to meet household expenses and found himself drifting into a role of supplying artificial cannabis products."

Hughes said this was not for commercial gain in the usual sense but was an effort to keep his household functioning.

Mataio had a grim upbringing and was now a devoted father who did not want his children to suffer the same fate, she said.

He was living on the streets from the age of 11 before he went into state care, then into a borstal, and then was finally recruited by Black Power.

Mataio was remorseful his actions had caused death and harm, Hughes said, arguing for a lesser sentence than home detention.

Judge Hikaka said Mataio hadn't been before the court for about 20 years and many references provided in the case had described him as a community-focused man.

"It's a real shame that in desperate circumstances you came into the court system again as a result of this offending."

Mataio was sentenced to six months' community detention coupled with nine months' intensive supervision.

- Tara Shaskey, Open Justice