Firefighter accused of stashing cocaine in fire extinguisher

TWO people caught up in the alleged supply of a large amount of cocaine in the Byron Bay region have been remanded in custody.

Suffolk Park woman Joanne McKinlay, 54, appeared before Byron Bay Local Court by video link when solicitor John Weller applied for bail on her behalf on Wednesday.

Ms McKinlay's husband, Scott Edward Biber, also remains bail refused and is facing 14 drug supply charges, including supplying a large commercial quantity of cocaine.

Ms McKinlay is facing numerous drug charges, including taking part in the supply of a large commercial quantity of the same drug, an offence which carries life imprisonment as its maximum penalty.

Broken Head man Michael Robert Birch, 67, is facing similar charges totalling 21 allegations.

Also named in court documents is another co-accused, Phil Emanuele.

It's understood the group were charged after Mr Biber, a firefighter, was allegedly found with 1.1kg of cocaine secreted in a fire extinguisher on January 9.

According to court documents, police executed a search warrant at the home Ms McKinlay and Mr Biber share that day.

There, they allegedly found large sum of cash, a further 12 grams of cocaine and a prohibited flick knife.

In applying for bail, Mr Weller said Ms McKinlay was "a person of good character" with no prior criminal history.

He said Mr Biber had been living with "severe alcoholism" and turned to cocaine after leaving rehab while Ms McKinlay had "worked continuously for 16 years" before suffering a serious injury.

She, along with her husband, lapsed into cocaine use, Mr Weller said.

He said his client - now facing two sets of charges - engaged with drug counselling after her first arrest last month.

But he argued she didn't know how much cocaine Mr Biber had brought back with him from a trip to Sydney.

"She was an intermediary with no knowledge of the actual quantity," Mr Weller said.

Mr Weller told the court Ms McKinlay was known for her involvement in sporting groups, was "a rock for the family" and had been assaulted since being in custody,

When he suggested an intensive corrections order could be a possible outcome if his client was convicted, Magistrate Karen Stafford stressed she was facing a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Ms Stafford said from the information before her, it seemed Ms McKinlay was aware of why her husband went to Sydney, and why he returned.

In refusing bail, she stressed the accused hadn't sought help for her drug use "until the first time the police intervened".

The court heard Mr Weller had planned to ask for Mr Birch's release as well, but withdrew this application when Ms McKinlay was remanded in custody.

Mr Birch and Ms McKinlay are due back in court on April 20, while Mr Biber will return to court on March 9.

None of the accused have entered formal pleas to any of their charges.


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