A Canberra man caught red-handed as he peddled drugs to an undercover cop has avoided more time behind bars after a judge said his attempts to rehabilitate had been “very pleasing”.
But Justice John Burns warned drug trafficker Robert James Masling, 28, his early progress was “only the beginning” and he couldn’t let his guard down when he learned his fate in the ACT Supreme Court on Monday.
Masling and his childhood friend, former public servant Joel Andrew Lemmon, 27, were charged over a string of drug transactions involving ice, MDMA and cocaine between August and October in 2016.
They pleaded guilty in the ACT Magistrates Court to drug charges.
The men were arrested when police raided properties in Amaroo and Kaleen after a long-running investigation into an illegal drug syndicate operating in the territory.
Lemmon had been driven by family illness and mounting financial pressures when he acted as “facilitator” to source drugs for Masling to sell, the court previously heard.
Prosecutors said the “inexperienced” pair were leading double lives in the months before they were arrested in the undercover sting, hoodwinking members of their extended families who had no idea they were trafficking drugs.
Masling was handed a deferred sentence order earlier this year after Justice John Burns said he would give the man an opportunity to show he could address the problems that led to his offending.
He returned to court, supported by his family and following a stint at a rehabilitation centre in NSW, on Monday.
Masling’s mother said from the witness box she acknowledged her son had committed a crime but said his actions since had been “a great source of pride” for his family.
He had been considered an “inspiration” and role model at the rehabilitation centre he attended, she said. “We were so incredibly proud of him for that.”
She said he wanted to continue to help others and his future was “very bright”.
“I can’t see him ever reoffending, or ever turning to drugs as a way to cope.”
She believed he would instead turn to friends and family members, and would not hesitate to seek professional help if required.
In sentencing Masling, Justice Burns said: “It’s very pleasing you have taken the opportunity that’s been given to you.
“You are one of a very small number of cases that come before me I can say have made the most of this opportunity.”
He told Masling it was “only the beginning”. “You can’t let your guard down. You must maintain that commitment.”
Justice Burns sentenced Masling to 23 months imprisonment, taking into account 50 days spent in custody after his arrest and suspending the rest. He was ordered to serve a two-year good behaviour order.
Lemmon, who worked for the Finance Department for four years and had top-secret security clearance, was handed a suspended sentence of two years and 10 months in April. He must serve a three-year good behaviour order.