An unemployed drug dealer has had a charge relating to $213,193.41 in bank transactions over seven months dropped by the Office Of Public Prosecutions.
Jason Ford, 45, previously of Kenna Avenue, Hamilton, appeared in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court on Wednesday for a committal hearing.
He had been charged with trafficking methamphetamine between the end of March to mid-October last year, as well as possessing meth on October 18 last year and dealing with property suspected of being the proceeds of crime ($1400 in cash).
But barrister Jennifer Clark, for Mr Ford, said there was no evidence to support a charge of dealing with property suspected of being the proceeds of crime between March 29, 2021, and October 18, 2021.
That property was $213,193.41 that went into Mr Ford's Westpac bank account during that period.
Ms Clark said the prosecution relied on the statements of three police officers, a recorded interview with Mr Ford and screen shots from his phone on October 18 last year.
She said a search warrant had been applied for and granted in relation to Mr Ford's bank account.
Ms Clark said the prosecution had to prove the cash was derived directly or indirectly from alleged drug trafficking.
"In my submission there is no evidence that can establish or is capable of proving beyond reasonable doubt that the transactions were derived directly or indirectly as proceeds of or from crime. That needs to be proved," she said.
"The bank account shows transactions but there is no evidence of the source. Certainly there is a suspicion but there is no evidence.
"The suspicion is articulated in the summary but it is not supported by any evidence at all in the brief. Suspicion or opinion is not admissible evidence.
"There is no evidence that transactions relate to traffick methamphetamine, it can't even rise to the low level to be committed to trial."
OPP lawyer Chris Brydon said on October 18 last year Mr Ford was arrested in possession of an eightball of meth, as well as a digital scale and there were images from the accused man's phone.
He said the magistrate was being asked to "marry up" transactions in Mr Ford's bank account with the images of text messages.
The lawyer then attempted to link images of two messages to two alleged deposit transactions conducted on October 17 and then on October 18, one relating to $100 by Sarah H and the other from Edgy for $200.
He said ice, scales and deal bags were located in addition to the bank records.
Magistrate Nunzio La Rosa said any prospective jury would be invited to make a leap of thought that any transaction not linked to a text message over the period between March 29 and October 18 must be drug related.
He said there was an absence of evidence that those other transactions were drug related.
The magistrate said the major proceeds of crime charge was unsupported by evidence and a jury would be asked to assume Mr Ford was a crook and therefore a drug trafficker.
"I am not persuaded that a jury properly instructed could find that," he said.
"I don't think the evidence supports the wide gap, it's speculation not wide inference."
The OPP then requested a break, returned to court and withdrew the proceeds of crime charge relating to the $213,000 and amended the drug trafficking charge from between March and October last year to just on October 18.
Ford pleaded guilty to the new drug trafficking charge and was jailed for seven months - time he had already served in custody while on remand.
He has 43 pages of prior court appearances and in 2016 was jailed for four months for trafficking meth.
His longest previous prison term was six months and he has a history of drug use and possession.
Ford had spent the previous 219 days in custody before Wednesday's committal hearing.
The magistrate said Ford was no stranger to prison time but he had another chance to start his life afresh in the community.
"It's up to you," Mr La Rosa told Ford.
He said Ford had a prior for trafficking drugs and "until now you haven't been able to get a handle on the gear", warning the defendant that if he returned to court for similar drug trafficking he could only expect a longer jail sentence.
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