Cancer-stricken meth cook jailed

A cancer-stricken methamphetamine cook has been jailed for seven years and two months.

Lance Michael Lee, 45, has been in custody since his arrest as part of the Operation Granite police swoops on properties in Christchurch, Rangiora and Ashburton in June 2010.

He pleaded guilty early to charges of possessing and manufacturing methamphetamine, possession of drug-making equipment and utensils for taking drugs, and a charge of assaulting a woman.

His sentencing in the High Court in Christchurch was delayed last year for discussions on the scale of his offending. He was found with a significant amount of the chemical pseudo-ephedrine, which is used for methamphetamine manufacture, and $40,000 cash.

Defence counsel Tim Fournier said Lee's guilty pleas were an acknowledgement of what he had done "and the harm he has caused to the community by being able to furnish vulnerable people with these drugs".

He said Lee had panicked and overreacted to a cancer diagnosis, and had resumed methamphetamine use and manufacture.

He was a heavy user of the drug.

Crown prosecutor Barnaby Hawes said Lee had described himself to the probation report writer as a skilled manufacturer of the drug, and he had a previous conviction for manufacture.

He was found with a large amount of cash and enough pseudo-ephedrine to manufacture a significant amount of the methamphetamine.

It had been his sole source of income since 2006. 

Lee's drug laboratory in Sydenham was raided by police in May 2010, when containers of chemicals were found.

Some were beneath a concrete pathway.

Justice Whata said the raid led to a flurry of text messages by those who would be among Operation Granite arrests a month later.

A scientist consulted by the defence estimated that the chemicals could have made up to 321 grams of methamphetamine.

It has a street value of between $800 and $1200 a gram, depending on quality and demand.

Justice Whata described the assault incident where Lee quarrelled with a woman he knew, pushed her against a wall, choked her and pushed her over.

He said he did not sense any "genuine remorse" for the assault.

He noted that Lee had 51 convictions on his record, including methamphetamine manufacture in 2002, violence and sexual offending.

He said he had been a model prisoner, and had the support of his family and friends.

He reduced Lee's sentence for his early guilty pleas and the cancer diagnosis and imposed a series of concurrent and cumulative sentences totalling seven years and two months, but imposed no minimum non-parole term.

The Press