What are the Penalties for Smuggling Contraband into a NSW Prison?

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.

 

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and there’s no denying that in the confines of a prison where creature comforts are at best imagined, the temptation to have prohibited goods in the palm of your hand is probably all too real.

But sometimes, you just have to question: Is it really worth it?

On 16 November 2018, in a failed trafficking endeavour, two people who used a drone to attempt to drift drugs and mobile phones into a Queensland jail were sentenced to 18 months in jail.

In an unexpected turn of events, the drone they utilised became impaired during flight and failed to deliver the contraband to the inmate.

And so, instead, on Friday, Donald Griffin and Karlie Lorraine Cuzzu found themselves entering a guilty plea in the Brisbane District Court to supplying a dangerous drug to a prisoner at the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre – an incident that occurred at Wacol in Brisbane’s south-west in October 2017.

Indeed, in the ill-fated mission, the duo’s bungled effort to hover prohibited substances into a place of detention flew them straight into a jail sentence themselves.

Meanwhile, Griffin also found himself charged with giving a prohibited item to a prisoner and possessing tainted property.

The Botched Drug Drop: How it all Unravelled

In the early hours of 24 October 2017, Griffin and Cuzzu made their way to the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre, equipped with a drone and the prohibited items.

The pair walked through bushland in the darkness to the prison’s perimeter where they endeavoured to soar the contraband to an inmate whom Griffin had become acquainted with while the 22-year-old was serving time for another offence.

However, much to the tribulation of the smugglers, the drone became dysfunctional during flight. It was at this point that prison authorities, who had become mindful of the drug delivery endeavour, alerted police.

Shortly afterwards, police discovered Griffin and Cuzzu at their vehicle at the Wacol train station. The collaborators were in a visibly tense temperament and were immediately arrested.

For more details on drugs, see the penalties and defences for drug offences in NSW.

Court Hears Griffin had been Released from Prison Himself Just Eight Days Before

At the duo’s court hearing, it was revealed that merely eight days before Griffin’s drug smuggling attempt, the young man had been released from prison himself.

According to Judge Michael Burnett, the pair was caught by authorities almost instantly in their bid to sneak the contraband across the fences.

“You walked through adjacent bushland toward the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre and you Mr Griffin were carrying a drone … the drone contained quite a body of contraband,” Judge Burnett said.

“Obviously your efforts to fly this drone into the prison environment were detected by some means or another and you were unsuccessful in executing it.”

It was at this point that authorities swiftly commenced a search of the partners in crime, during which they appeared “sweating, agitated and nervous”.

“The phone was seized and relevant text messages with an unknown third party identified there was an arrangement with supplying mobile phones and drugs by you into the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre,” Judge Burnett said.

He also made note that the drone, drugs and mobile phones were discovered in a school bag belonging to one of Cuzzu’s children. The 35-year-old is a mother to three.

Griffin and Cuzzu’s Jail Sentences Suspended

Judge Burnett sentenced Griffin to 18-months in jail, suspended immediately. He said the man was still young and if he returned to his family in Bundabery, he had a decent possibility of rehabilitation.

On the other side of the coin, the judge was scornful towards Cuzzu, whose defence lawyer attempted to argue that his client was required by her children and should be shown leniency.

“What you haven’t got before me is evidence she’s an involved and supportive parent … but she’s wandering around Wacol at one o’clock in the morning,” Judge Burnett said.

He handed Cuzzu an 18-month jail sentence, suspended after three months.

“It is serious offending, it is offending that undermines not only the rehabilitation of those in prison … but also, of course it undermines the discipline that is essential in such an environment,” the judge said.

It’s not what we commonly see, which is a loved one simply trying to provide a drug to a person in a custodial environment … it has far more wide-reaching ramifications.”

“Simply Not Worth the Consequences”: Another Failed Trafficking Plan Gone Wrong

The bodged drone-drop attempt is not the first time a prison visitor has gone to desperate measures and risking all to conceal and deliver contraband to an inmate.

Earlier this year in February, a man visiting a female prisoner at a NSW jail decided that he would swallow items including a syringe and an unknown substance in an attempt to transfer prohibited items to the inmate.

But the 23-year-old wasn’t able to properly ingest all of the items, of which the syringe was left protruding from his mouth and visible to the prison officers and drug dogs he was soon confronted by at Silverwater Women’s Correctional Centre.

Soon after, the young man started showing signs of “rapid intoxication” and was immediately transported to hospital for medical assessment.

While a quantity of the unknown substance was consumed by the visitor, the syringe, along with some pieces of clear plastic and an amount of tobacco were successfully retrieved by the officers.

In capturing the sheer senselessness of such incidents, Minister for Corrections, David Elliott, eloquently summarised, “People will go to any lengths to smuggle contraband and avoid getting caught but the lesson here is very clear – it’s simply not worth the consequences.”

“Instead of spending the morning visiting a loved one, this individual has a trip to the hospital and is now facing criminal charges.”

What are the Penalties for Smuggling Contraband into Prison in NSW?

NSW correctional centres prohibit certain items from entering the prison, including mobile phones, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, lighters, syringes, sim cards, chargers, computers and offensive weapons.

Anyone caught smuggling or trying to smuggle these items into a prison will face heavy criminal penalties in NSW.

In NSW, any person who brings (or attempts to bring) spirituous or fermented liquor into a prison without lawful authority will face a penalty of up to 6 months imprisonment pursuant to section 253C(1) of the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 (NSW).

Any person who smuggles or tries to smuggle any of the following things into a prison without lawful authority will face a penalty of up to 2-years imprisonment and/or $5,500 fine:

  • A prohibited drug constituting no more than a ‘small quantity’ of the substance; or
  • Prohibited plant.

An inmate in a NSW prison who uses or possesses a mobile phone (or any part of a mobile phone), sim card or phone charger (or part of one) will face a penalty of up to $5,500 fine and/or 2-years imprisonment pursuant to section 253F of the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 (NSW).

The same maximum penalties apply to anyone who, without reasonable excuse, has an offensive weapon or instrument in his or her possession whilst inside a NSW prison. This is reflected in section 253E of the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 (NSW).

Do you have any questions from this blog, or just generally?

We have criminal defence lawyers in Newcastle, Sydney City, Wollongong, Bankstown, Parramatta, Blacktown and 3 other locations in NSW.

Our team are available 24/7 and appear in all courts.

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