Tony Bamford is pleased that the courts will now consider the personal circumstances of low-level meth dealers. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Nelson case forms part of court’s meth overhaul

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The case of a Nelson woman, who was sentenced to prison for low-level methamphetamine supply, has formed part of a landmark court judgement which could see dealers have their sentence cut by 30 percent.

Until the Court of Appeal released its decision last week, the quantity of methamphetamine was the most significant factor in setting a starting point for sentences.

Sentencing ranged in five “bands” starting at between two years and four years six months jail for offences involving 5 to 250 grams, to life imprisonment for the most serious offending, involving more than 2kg.

However, now judges have more discretion in their decisions depending on whether the individual is a kingpin making millions of dollars, or simply a street dealer. They can also take into account a dealer’s personal circumstances and whether they were addicted to the drug themselves.

For Leanne Crighton, however, it has come too late. She was sentenced in Nelson to 22 months in prison for offering to supply and supplying 3.75 grams of methamphetamine.

However, her lawyer Tony Bamford says that Crighton should have never gone to prison.

“She was your classic example of a low-level dealer that had personal issues. She was dealing to fuel her and her partner’s addiction.”

Tony says a community-based sentence would have been much more suitable for her.

“She is a category of offender where you need a different approach not just send them to jail for 2-3 years.”

Her case formed part of the larger Court of Appeal judgement.

Crighton started using methamphetamine in 2017 when she was 44-years-old. She became addicted and started to sell the drug at a small scale to subsidise her own use and that of her partner, to whom she supplied methamphetamine to ward off his violence.

The judgement said that her relationships through her life had been marred by abuse and were characterized “largely by violence”. It said Crighton was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and PTSD after assaults she suffered as teenager. Methamphetamine was used as a coping mechanism.

Tony says the result is positive and he has about seven or eight cases that are similar to Crighton’s across Nelson and Blenheim, which have been awaiting the appeal decision. They will now have a much higher likelihood of receiving community-based sentences.

He says people don’t realise how powerfully addictive the drug can be and the judgement makes this clear.

“The drivers are the same instinct as survival. The need for the drug is prioritised over all other needs.”

However, Tony says Crighton has now kicked the habit, is out of prison and has got herself set up.

“She is doing well. She is not using and has got herself out of that nasty relationship.”

However, the “elephant in the room” was whether there was the community rehab support for those people who now qualified for a reduced sentence.

He hoped now that the money that would be saved by not incarcerating so many people would be put back into the rehab system where it should be.

“The more political traction around that the better.”