Business owner faces new trial on ‘Get High’ drugs charges
A SUNSHINE Coast businesswoman who was convicted of trafficking synthetic cannabis will face a new trial after her convictions were set aside.
Phaedra Joy Barret, 48, was denied a fair trial because key evidence was not given to a judge until she was sentenced, the Queensland Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
In May last year, the Maroochydore District Court sentenced Ms Barrett to two years' jail after Judge Glen Cash found her guilty of trafficking and ordered her to spend at least eight months behind bars.
The court was told that in 2012, Ms Barrett operated a legal business called Get High and sold synthetic cannabinoids.
The Crown's case at the judge-only trial was that Ms Barrett was aware her products had become outlawed in 2013 after changes to the Drugs Misuse Act, but continued her business.
Queensland Police alleged that in August 2014, they found $75,000 in cash, chemically-treated leaves and communications proving she had imported chemicals from England to Caloundra.
Ms Barrett denied that she had continued trafficking and claimed that she had sold the business to a customer she had met online so she could open a vaping business.
She pleaded guilty to one charge of possessing a dangerous drug.
Ms Barrett claimed that when she sold her business, she still believed that the chemical composition of her products was legal because of a forensic toxicologist report she kept in a folder.
At a hearing into her appeal, Ms Barrett claimed she told her legal team that this report had been seized by police during their search.
The Court of Appeal found that this information was not shared with Judge Cash until sentence.
Justices Anthe Philippides, Philip McMurdo and David Boddice said this denied Ms Barrett the opportunity to raise a potential mistake of fact defence and had resulted in a miscarriage of justice.
"She is thereby in the position of having been sentenced upon findings that could have led to her being acquitted on these charges, had all of these findings been made before the verdicts," they noted in a court judgment online.
Ms Barrett will face a new trial for drug trafficking, producing a dangerous drug and some summary drug offences at a date to be fixed.
Originally published as Synthetic drugs trafficker 'not given a fair trial': Court