Accused meth drug trafficker cleared
ABSENT police notebook handwritten notes and audio recordings cutting short of alleged crucial evidence formed part of a defence team's argument to have a drug trafficking charge dismissed.
Trevor John Williams, 56, had his drug trafficking charge dismissed on Friday after police offered no evidence on the second morning of a two-day committal hearing in Rockhampton Magistrates Court.
Defence solicitor Shaune Irving said it was an excellent result.
"It is unfortunate that my client has been put to the expense of having to defend a charge that police ultimately withdrew, more so that it has taken two years of litigation to dismiss the matter," he said.
Mr Williams was charged in September 2016 with 105 drug offences after a four-month Criminal Investigation Bureau operation.
The charges were laid after 20 officers raided a Wandal address - alleged to be the centre of a $100,000 methamphetamine and marijuana drug trafficking business - and a West Rockhampton house.
After two years of litigation, the charges were reduced to one count of trafficking drugs and two summary offences.
During the hearing, evidence was heard from convicted drug addicts who told police they sourced drugs from Mr Williams, along with the lead officer of the investigation, Detective Senior Constable James Verney.
Defence barrister Damien Walsh questioned Snr Constable Verney about when the first informant - Michael Silveri - initially gave him Mr Williams' name as a supplier.
The court was told this occurred after Snr Constable Verney turned off an audio recording device which he used to record Mr Silveri's refusal to do an official interview.
Mr Silveri had been arrested after police searched his residence, found drugs and evidence Mr Silveri had been supplying drugs to others.
Mr Walsh established there was no documented evidence - such as audio, video or handwritten note in Snr Constable Verney's police-issued notepad - of Mr Silveri giving police Mr Williams' name in relation to drugs.
"When you arrest someone possessing drugs, you ask them if they want to give (QPS) any information," Snr Constable Verney said.
He said QPS indicate, in such circumstances, that they are interested in anyone involved with drugs.
"Why turn the tape off when you had intention of asking that question?" Mr Walsh said.
"I can't answer that," Snr Constable Verney said.
He said the day of his arrest, Mr Silveri raised the possibility of "minimising his penalty" by providing information about other people.
Mr Silveri gave police a statement three weeks after his arrest. It was in this statement Mr Williams' name was linked to supplying illicit drugs. It was in this statement Mr Silveri claimed $104,000 cash stashed at his residence was drug money he owed Mr Williams.
"I don't know how the word 'owed' got in there," Mr Silveri told the court on Thursday.
Snr Constable Verney said he typed out the statement verbatim as Mr Silveri told him information.
The court was told another recording device of Snr Constable Verney's stopped short of alleged verbal evidence given when Mr Williams' property was searched, and he was arrested.
Snr Constable Verney said police had been at Mr Williams' property in excess of four hours when the battery expired.
The court was told Snr Constable Verney asked Mr Williams who owned the cash seized by police at his property as he was arrested, and that was when another police officer told Snr Constable Verney his tape recorder battery had died.
When asked why he didn't comply with the Queensland Police Powers and Responsibilities Act to get the answer in writing once the recorder failed, Snr Constable Verney said Mr Williams had indicated he didn't want to talk with police.
"You didn't have any handwritten notes?" Mr Walsh asked.
"No," Snr Constable Verney said. He went on to explain he had put it in the computer system when writing up his report the night of the search.
The court was told there was also no record of how many times Snr Constable Verney and Mr Silveri communicated by phone between his arrest and his statement being given.
Another convicted drug addict told the court he worked for Mr Williams using a part of the internet called the Dark Web, which requires specific software, configurations and authorisations to access, to sell drugs because Mr Williams "didn't know how to use a computer".
However, the court was told when police searched the second drug addict's place, they took a computer but not the one used to access the Dark Web.
The evidence given during the committal hearing was not the first time a court had heard of issues in the case.
When Mr Williams was granted bail in October 2017 before Justice Martin Burns, he chided police for not providing much evidence.
Justice Burns said details before him about the alleged trafficking were generic.
"I strongly suspect there's a strong case there. It's just not before the court."
The court was told police claimed to have found clipseal bags and drug-related messages on at least one of Mr Williams' mobile phones.
During one search, cash was allegedly found, but drugs were not, the judge said.
"It is apparent that there has been a clear failure in the statutory requirements of Queensland Police to disclose all relevant material to the defence," Mr Irving said.
"In fact, the police were still disclosing material two years after my client's arrest and throughout the course of this hearing. An issue that is fundamental to the criminal justice system to afford fairness to any accused facing criminal charges. An issue that must be addressed by the Queensland Police Service.
"My client has been subjected to extensive and arduous bail conditions as a result of this allegation, one that has significantly restricted and hindered his ability to go about his life.
"Given the extremely flawed investigation, conditions that have ultimately never been required."
Mr Williams has two summary offences outstanding that were laid as part of the alleged drug trafficking which are expected to be dismissed at his next court appearance on February 12.