DRUG DRIVERS: ‘It’s only going to get worse’

Magistrate John Murphyhas warned the problem of drug-driving is going to get a lot worse on the Border. He has predicted it won’t be too long before drug-driving cases outnumber drink-driving matters before the court.
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A WODONGA magistrate yesterday took aim at the maximum ban he could impose on drug drivers under Victorian law.

John Murphy was clearly frustrated when sentencing a Wodonga man for driving with methamphetamine in his system.

Mr Murphy said he could disqualify Dean James Simpson from driving for no more than six months.

He compared that with the disqualification period he could impose on someone affected by alcohol to a similar degree.

“It beggars belief,” he said.

Mr Murphy said in cases that must be heard in a magistrates court, a person found guilty with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 or more could have their licence cancelled for between 15 and 48 months.

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Methamphetamine had been detected in Simpson’s system after an oral fluid sample he provided tested positive for either methamphetamine or cannabis.

The sample was further tested in Melbourne, revealing a positive screen for methamphetamine.

Mr Murphy warned the problem of drug-driving was going to get a lot worse on the Border.

He predicted it would not be too long before drug-driving cases outnumbered the number of drink-driving matters before the court.

Mr Murphy gave Simpson, 27, of Stevenson Street, a stern lecture about the dangers of using methamphetamine, otherwise known as ice.

Simpson had pleaded guilty to one count of driving while having a prescribed concentration of a drug.

Mr Murphy said it was almost more important for him, as a magistrate, to warn about the medical risks rather than the criminal repercussions.

“The chances of addiction from using ice are 20per cent,” he said.

Mr Murphy said methamphetamine addiction inflicted a terrible toll on a user’s body.

He spoke about a court visit he made during a recent private trip to the US in which several facts about this damage were outlined to him.

One case involved a victim who would not have died had he not had such major brain damage caused by the drug.

Mr Murphy said he was also told there were an ever-increasing number of cases where addicts’ gums and teeth were rotting away.

Simpson pointed out he was not a long-term drug user, saying he had only used the drug on that one occasion.

But Mr Murphy said that did not matter, as once was enough to land someone on the downward spiral of methamphetamine addiction.

Police told the court Simpson, who had not long moved to Wodonga to get away from bad influences, was pulled over by police for a random check on February 7.

Simpson was driving west on Pearce Street when he was stopped at 7.38pm for a preliminary breath test.

He gave a negative reading, but then provided the positive drug result.

Simpson told police he had taken drugs about 10am the previous day, but he could not say exactly what he had taken.

“Not sure if it was ice or speed,” he said.

Simpson was convicted and banned from driving for six months and fined $1000.

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