Meth-lab parents escape jail time after major turnaround
FOR one Ipswich couple, a major drug bust on their family farm was the "wake-up call" they needed to finally confront the addiction that threatened to strip them of their freedom and four children.
Holding hands in the dock in Brisbane Supreme Court on Monday, Jessica Lee Harch and Jeffrey Charles Tooley insisted they were changed people - ashamed of the miserable addicts they had been when their backyard sheds housed heroin and amphetamine laboratories.
The court heard they were entrenched in drug culture and associating with dealers and other addicts when police discovered glassware, equipment and chemicals - some of which was not theirs and had been stored by friends - at their rural property in June, 2015.
Stashes of heroin, methylamphetamine and marijuana were also discovered on site.
On the day of their arrest Mr Tooley, who was said to have more knowledge of the activities on the property than his partner, told police "this is a wake-up call".
The court heard while each initially floundered and committed several further offences, mainly driving off from fuel stations without paying, they eventually made significant changes, voluntarily attending drug and alcohol counselling, participating in positive parenting and life skills courses and enrolling in agricultural studies at TAFE.
In commending the pair for the efforts they had made to turn their lives around, Justice Ann Lyons warned it was going to be "hard yards" for them in years to come and asked if they wanted to say anything before their sentences were handed down.
Mr Tooley stood first and said, "We appreciate the time to say this Your Honour - we've removed all the bad influences and people and distraction from our lives. We're a lot more focussed on the family unit."
Ms Harch wept as she said, "We both accept it is going to be a struggle for the rest of our lives to stay clean but we've got four beautiful daughters and the potential to have more. Now that we're clean we can see where we went wrong and how easy it is to get distracted. When you are on drugs like methamphetamine it is very easy to be influenced."
Justice Lyons sentenced Mr Tooley to a total of 18 months jail and Ms Harch to six months.
Allowing immediate parole for both, Justice Lyons said she hoped she never saw the parents in a court again.
"You must be aware of what you have exposed yourself to," she said
"If you can really focus on those studies and do something that is meaningful as an example to your four children, that will be important."
- ARM NEWSDESK