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Drug trafficker accused bailed because of coronavirus threat


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Samantha Broes was arrested and charged with drug trafficking in November, when she was already on bail for the same offences after police found drugs in her Mount Pleasant home.

On her first arrest she was found to be in possession of 1.5 grams of ice, 3.4 grams of ecstasy and 6.6 grams of cocaine. When arrested a second time, police said she was carrying 30 grams of cocaine and 20 grams MDMA.

Justice Lasry said she had no prior criminal history and it was her first time in custody, but his main reason for bailing the Ballarat mother was the massive delays the courts were facing due to the pandemic.

“It seems clear that there will be significant delays occasioned within the courts as a result of this virus, which may result in lengthy periods of remand,” he said.

Ms Broes would “overwhelmingly likely” spend more time on remand awaiting the results of her case than she could be jailed for if she was found guilty, the court heard.

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Her barrister, Michael McGrath, said there was “no question” that once the virus was discovered in any Victorian prison, there would be significant lockdowns to slow the fast transmission rate between prisoners. His client was young and healthy, and would likely make a recovery, but she would be substantially affected by lockdowns.

“The situation is sufficiently urgent to require them to be taken into account,” Justice Lasry said.

Lawyers and the courts are expecting a surge in the number of bail applications in coming weeks, as accused people face long stints in custody awaiting trial.

The County Court and Supreme Court suspended the start of new trials in response to the coronavirus outbreak, and it is unlikely any new trials will start until October at the earliest, exacerbating the strain already on the system.

Human rights and criminal lawyers have been calling for the early release of some prisoners, including the elderly and those jailed for minor crime before the outbreak.

Prisons suspended face-to-face personal visits on Saturday, which led to two prisoners scaling the top of their unit at Barwon Prison in protest, forcing a lockdown of the whole precinct.

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