Port woman’s ice hell
A Port Douglas woman who pleaded guilty to drug charges has narrowly avoided jail-time after telling a judge she had been caught up in her brother’s drug trafficking activities.
Jodi Hepner, 44, appeared in Cairns Supreme Court this week facing drug charges, including permitting the use of property in supplying a dangerous drug.
She was charged as a result of Operation North Kimberlite, which targeting the supply of methamphetamine, or ice, in the Cairns and Port Douglas region in 2015.
The court was told that during the police operation, her younger brother Leigh Hepner was targeted as a drug trafficker, and intercepted communications had revealed Hepner’s involvement.
Leigh Hepner is scheduled to appear before the Cairns Supreme Court in early March. He was arrested interstate last year and brought back to Cairns.
According to Crown prosecutor Melanie Franklin, “Ms Hepner was caught up in the investigation in relation to her brother Leigh Hepner, and as a result of the investigation into his trafficking was captured on a number of intercepted communications between the pair.”
The investigation allegedly uncovered an instance where Hepner had acted as a middleman attempting to organise the sale of ice between her
brother and another person, and had also allowed her car to be used as part of her brother’s trafficking, causing Far North drug squad detectives to consider her a key figure in the supply chain in Port Douglas.
“The use of her vehicle essentially arose once her brother had handed over his own vehicle to his suppliers to pay off his drug debt, in order for him to continue supplying drugs she allowed him to use her vehicle,” Ms Franklin told the court.
Hepner’s defence lawyer Peter Feeney told Justice James Henry that Hepner, who had no prior criminal history, had begun using ice after her brother offered her a ready supply, and then became entangled in her brother’s activities to help him continue supplying the drug.
Mr Feeney described Hepner getting caught up in the investigation as the result of two worlds colliding – that of a productive and involved member of the community, and her younger brother’s influence.
“She is here because she got caught in the wake of her brother,” said Mr Feeney.
Hepner was described as quickly becoming addicted and “preoccupied with obtaining” ice over a period of a few months in 2015. She has since broken the addiction and the court heard she has not relapsed. In his ruling, Justice Henry said that before getting involved in her brother’s trafficking activities, Hepner had “conducted (herself) in an entirely responsible way,” but that at 44 she was old enough to know the dangers of drug use.
Justice Henry highlighted Hepner’s clear knowledge of her brother’s activities as being one of the reasons for a harsher sentence. “It is obvious though that you were not dealing with him … like some naive babe in the woods. You had a full understanding of what was going on.”
Hepner was sentenced to six months imprisonment which was wholly suspended for 18 months, and 18 months’ probation with conditions. A conviction was recorded.