Student wants Ritalin conviction overturned

Last updated 05:00 12/02/2014

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A university student convicted of selling Ritalin to other students, believing it helped them to study, wants a discharge without conviction.

Druvi Patrick Rodrigo, 24, has more recently found out he has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition treated by the drug methylphenidate, marketed under names including Ritalin.

In the Court of Appeal yesterday, his current lawyer, Fiona Guy Kidd, said Rodrigo's original lawyer did not investigate his personal circumstances and simply told him he would not qualify for a discharge without conviction, so he did not seek one.

He pleaded guilty in Dunedin District Court to selling a class B drug and was sentenced to 10 months' home detention and 200 hours' community work.

The Otago University commerce student broke his studies to serve the sentence but, after finishing the community work and doing eight months' home detention, he learned that a more deeply involved co-offender had been discharged without conviction in Auckland. Rodrigo then filed an appeal.

Guy Kidd told the three Court of Appeal judges at Wellington yesterday that a correct assessment of Rodrigo's circumstances, including the previously undiagnosed ADHD, met the criteria for a discharge.

Offenders can ask for a discharge without conviction if the consequences of a conviction are out of all proportion to the gravity of the offence. Such a discharge is deemed to be an acquittal.

Rodrigo started using Ritalin to calm his mind and concentrate, and then supplied three people, only one of them for profit. He said he wanted to help other students with their studying. The profit he made was no more than $300 and paid for his own supply.

A psychologist's evidence was that, without treatment, Rodrigo had less thought for the consequences of his actions. If he had been diagnosed earlier, he might never have sold the drug.

If the conviction remained, Rodrigo's career prospects would be affected. He would have problems visiting close family members in Canada and the United States, and perhaps returning to his native Sri Lanka, Guy Kidd said.

Crown lawyer Jo Mildenhall said not much distinguished the two students, both with ADHD, who were caught selling the drug. However, the discharged one had contributed more to the community. Thoughts of suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder were also factors in his sentencing.

The court will give its decision later.

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- The Dominion Post

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