The frail pensioner with a $1000 a week ice habit

AN AGED pensioner from Kyogle who has lost the ability to speak orchestrated a drug dealing ring which imported hundreds of grams of ice from Queensland to fund his own $1000 a week meth addiction.

A decrepit Thomas John Kedwell, 67, is being sentenced in Lismore District Court for supplying 238g of the destructive drug between May and October 2016 from a Roseberry Creek farm, north of Kyogle.

Kedwell pleaded guilty in August last year to supplying in indictable quantity of drugs and is currently free on bail.

At his sentencing hearing in Lismore District Court on Wednesday the court heard he was scheduled to undergo surgery in John Hunter Hospital next week for his throat condition, which has left him unable to swallow his own saliva.

With tanned, heavily lined skin, a distinctive pair of star tattoos on his right cheek, and short grey streaked hair, he repeatedly gasped for air and massaged the outside of his throat while watching proceedings from the dock.

The court heard Kedwell led an operation also involving his ex-partner and his son buying bulk quantities of ice from north of the border and distributing it around the Kyogle area.

His co-accused, Nicola New and Richard John Matthews, were sentenced in November to minimum jail sentences of two years and 18 months respectively.

But Kedwell has denied purchasing the drugs purely to supply to others and said they were mainly for his personal use.

Unable to verbally communicate while giving evidence, he instead wrote his answers down on a notepad.

The former heroin addict, who kicked that habit in 1989 when he received lengthy drug related jail sentence in Queensland, said he was burning through approximately $1000 a week in ice, and personally used "50 per cent" of the drugs the trio bought.

He conceded there was supply to others, but indicated it was incidental.

Asked by DPP prosecutor Peter Woods where he got the money to buy the drugs, Kedwell said they were funded from his pension, some paid work, and his "wealthy" brother, who gave him money to buy equipment for the farm but which "some of it" he spent on ice.

"I put it to you that you were supporting the habit by selling," Mr Woods said, which Kedwell denied.

His solicitor Jim Fuggle said there was no evidence of "any great personal wealth" accruing from the drug dealing and Kedwell would be in a "vulnerable position" in jail  because he couldn't speak.

He said Kedwell had a dysfunctional childhood, having been labelled as an "uncontrollable child" , living away from home where he was subjected to and witnessed physical and sexual abuse.

Petty crimes driven by his "poverty stricken" situation escalated over the years, where eventually he spent time in jail for drug crime.

Mr Fuggle said the offences "certainly" called for imprisonment but there were alternative options such as a suspended jail sentence, and special circumstances could apply because of his health.

But Mr Woods told the court Kedwell was the "ringleader" of the group and a jail sentence slightly higher than his co-accused would be an "appropriate starting point".

"He lacks insight into his own behaviour and he lacks insight into his own offending behaviour. He has served lengthy periods of custody in relation to (prior) drug offences," Mr Woods said.

Judge Laura Wells will hand down her sentence on Friday.



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