How a two-year court delay changed a man’s life
MT ISA miner Rhyse Southam was a meth-wasted wreck when he was arrested for trafficking - but a staggeringly long delay in the legal system let him turn his life around.
The talented welder was winning awards and praise for his diligence and skill, but as the money rolled in, the cashed-up tradie grew bored and was distracted by the lure of ice.
The third-year apprentice quit his job and in 2016 began trafficking to support his habit, declaring bankruptcy by 24 and shedding 20kg as he consumed 1g of ice per day.
His house - a "honey pot for fellow travellers in drugs" - was repossessed.
But it was the two-year delay between arrest and conviction that prompted frustration in Justice James Henry.
"Justice delayed is justice denied," Justice Henry said in Cairns Supreme Court.
He expressed dismay that neither Southam's thrice-shuffled legal team nor police prosecutors could push the file through committal at a faster rate - to the tax payer's cost.
Southam was arrested in July 2016 and the court heard a brief of evidence was finally produced by police in April 2017.
He appeared in court yesterday - 20 months later - and pleaded guilty to 18 charges, including trafficking a dangerous drug.
"It is utterly remarkable that he was not committed until two years later (after arrest)," Justice Henry said.
"It is difficult to conceive how a case of this level can linger in Cairns Magistrates Court. It is an unacceptably long time."
The court heard Southam's family brought him to their farm in Gympie, where he was able to rehabilitate himself.
"Offenders should not have a period of over two years in which to display rehabilitation to get a lesser sentence; but here it is and you have run with it," Justice Henry said.
"You dropped out of lunar orbit and returned to earth to begin to behave sensibly.
"You have taken the chance that the justice system has managed to give you."
Justice Henry said Southam would have been looking at two-and-a-half years of jail time.
"It seems entirely appropriate to me that you receive a sentence with immediate release on parole."
He sentenced Southern to 18 months in prison, to be paroled immediately.