How boilermaker’s back injury sent him on a downward spiral
ONE back injury. Thirteen years of pain. Seven customers. Ten drug exchanges. Three years jail.
Dean Mitchell Matthews, 38, will only have to serve four months of that term behind bars after this week receiving a "very lenient" sentence in Mackay Supreme Court.
But he will be released on parole and required to abide by strict conditions under supervision for the remainder of the jail term.
Standing in the prisoners dock awaiting sentence, a crestfallen Matthews's thin frame wore a red hoodie and light denim jeans with a ripped pocket baring his underpants beneath.
He occasionally turned his head to cast his hollowed eyes upon his weeping wife and three children behind him.
They had stood by him, the court had heard.
But his wife had to step in and cut him off from the family finances when his addiction to illicit drugs took over.
Matthews turned to drug trafficking to fund his own habit when painkillers no longer masked the lingering pain from his lower back injury.
He has pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, supplying dangerous drugs and other drug-related offences.
Crown legal officer Ryan Godfrey told the court Matthews had a number of drug possession convictions on his criminal history since 2018.
He said fines had not deterred him and this offending was an escalation - noting there had been two drug-driving offences as well.
"Between February 5 and May 4 last year … he was identified as supplying on 10 occasions to seven different customers," he said.
"The operation was limited and unsophisticated.
"Common drug terminology was used and communication occurred on the Facebook Messenger application.
"(Matthews) dealt in small quantities of methylamphetamines which he sourced 7g of at a time."
Mr Godfrey said Facebook messages showed a "clear intent to grow the commerciality through the advertisement of prices and the negotiating".
He also noted threats Matthews made to a customer who had an outstanding debt to him.
"The messages that were sent were along the lines of 'it's only going to be worse for you the longer it goes on' and 'I'll get you Dingo, your day is coming' and 'I'm coming for you'," he said.
When officers executed a search warrant at Matthews's home, they found clipseal bags, scales, water pipes, 11g of marijuana and other drug paraphernalia.
Defence barrister Scott McLennan said his client was married to a woman he met when they attended Sarina State High School and they had three children aged 15, 13 and seven.
He said Matthews had a good work history as a soil technician and then a boilermaker until his disc at the L5S1 level prolapsed when he was lifting a length of steel at work on July 18, 2006.
Mr McLennan said conservative treatment did not work during three weeks in hospital and his client had surgery the following year.
He said Matthews received a substantial payout through a personal injury claim which he used to buy his family home and pay off the home of his parents who were on disability pensions.
Mr McLennan said Matthews could no longer pursue his trade as a boilermaker but in 2009 he began work at Queensland Rail, where his father had worked, as a shunter.
He was still experiencing chronic pain at the site of the injury as well as referral pain in his legs, the court heard.
"It got worse to the point that in 2018 he felt like he could no longer continue to work," Mr McLennan said.
"He was in constant pain at work and felt like he wasn't going to pass his next medical examination so he ultimately took up an offer to take a payout from Queensland Rail and he stopped working.
"Unfortunately he tried methylamphetamine in 2018, it provided some relief for the pain he was in, and he became addicted.
"In 2018, he spent an amount in six figures on methylamphetamines.
"Mr Matthews's wife, who stood by him, essentially cut off his access to finances and that's how he came to be trafficking.
"The business was unsuccessful because Mr Matthews kept burning his suppliers because he was using the drugs himself instead of selling them.
"Of the actual supplies, it was 5.14g at a price of about $1600 … and there's a couple of offers for bigger amounts."
Justice David North said Matthews's offending was "quite serious" but "this is about as small a business as you can get consistent with (drug) trafficking" as he delivered what he described as a "very lenient" sentence.
"You're a lucky man that your wife stands by you," Justice North said.
"Notwithstanding the disability you suffer and the pain you suffer, your conduct in raiding the domestic finances to meet your own need was self-indulgent.
"You put at risk your family's happiness and pride and self-respect by then continuing to indulge yourself and to supply drugs to others and to traffic in drugs.
"You should know by now how addictive methylamphetamine is. It's the cause of a lot of harm in the community.
"You've put your family through the ringer.
"(The drug's) effects are debilitating and dangerous to the health of users.
"The effect on some users, in the way in which they conduct themselves, is a threat to the health of people in the community who come into contact with them.
"It can be responsible or associated with a lot of the domestic violence in the community.
"It can be associated with a lot of the crime in the community.
"And, of course, the buying and selling of methylamphetamines only serves to line the pockets of those who are major traffickers in the dangerous drugs.
"That's why there are serious penalties imposed available for trafficking.
"The community deplores such activity. Stern sentences are called for to dissuade others from being tempted."