Silk Road drug buyers in court

Buying drugs off "dark web" sites like Silk Road is the modern, convenient, safe refuge of the "Trade Me generation", a lawyer has argued.

Auckland couple Daniel Wayne Fowler, 23, and Lisa Marie Clark, 22, appeared for sentence in the Manukau District Court today. Fowler pleaded guilty to importing a class B drug.

Clark pleaded guilty to possession of class B and C drugs.

Fowler's lawyer Tudor Clee, however, argued that the importing charge would have only been a possession charge if his client had not used modern methods of drug purchase.

If Fowler had gone down to "the local gang pad" to buy drugs, he would only be facing a possession charge, Clee said.

"Because of the method being easier, safer and cheaper, the penalty increases... If he had done the same thing and gone to the gang pad he would be facing one-twenty-eighth of the penalty."

Clee said his client used the crypto-currency Bitcoin to buy the pills off the "dark web" site Silk Road.

The site had a number of attractions for his client who he described as "part of the Trade Me generation".

"It's faster and easier to order the drugs than it is to order a pizza," Clee said.

It was safer than going to the local gang pad and the drugs were more likely to be unadulterated as drug sellers were rated on the website by past purchasers.

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Cost-wise, there was a massive discrepancy between the Silk Rd and street prices.

Clee said his client was found with 201 pills because the drugs were so cheap they could only be bought in large batches to make it worth-while for the seller.

"It's not possible to buy five or six pills," he said.

The 200 pills were bought for somewhere between $200 and $300, Clee said, though there was no evidence of this as the whole point of Silk Road was to make anonymous transactions that left no record.

Judge Philip Recordon said there was some use in differentiating importation for commercial ends from importation for personal use, though in the end it was still importation.

Fowler had also been caught with a cannabis growing operation and he pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis for supply. $3,300 found in a safe was traced back to the sale of a vehicle.

Judge Recordon said Fowler's offending had elements of "naivety and stupidity" and sentenced him to nine months home detention.

Clark was originally charged with importing the Ecstasy but that charge was dropped.

She pleaded guilty to possession of Class B and C drugs but was discharged without conviction after arguing a conviction could bar her from gaining employment as a nurse in the future.

- This story has been corrected since first publication to reflect that Lisa Marie Clark did not plead guilty to importing a class B drug but to possession of a class B and C drug.

 - Stuff

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