Tina Phan enters Burwood Local Court followed by her lawyer Cheryl Khurana before pleading guilty to smuggling 394 MDMA capsules internally to a deadly music festival. Picture: Candy Sutton/news.com.au
Tina Phan enters Burwood Local Court followed by her lawyer Cheryl Khurana before pleading guilty to smuggling 394 MDMA capsules internally to a deadly music festival. Picture: Candy Sutton/news.com.au

Teen with 400 pills got off lightly: court

A teenager who brought almost 400 MDMA pills into a music festival where a man died could face up to 15 years up in prison, a court has heard.

Tina Thanh Truc Phan, 18, faced Parramatta District Court in western Sydney today where prosecutors argued that a sentence she received after pleading guilty to a drug supply charge earlier in the year was woefully inadequate.

In January, Phan was placed on a 12-month Community Corrections Order including 80 hours community service.

The aspiring nurse internally concealed 394 MDMA capsules at the Knockout Games of Destiny music festival at Sydney Olympic Park last December.

At the time, the aspiring nursing student wept as her lawyer claimed she had smuggled the drugs into the festival to boost her family's stretched finances. But the magistrate said it was a "deliberate act" from a "not unintelligent young woman".

At Wednesday's hearing, Phan - dressed in a long black cardigan and burgundy top - sat impassively as the prosecution said the non custodial sentence should be reviewed.

The prosecution argued that the amount of capsules found on the teenager was below a commercial quantity but nonetheless above the indictable level which meant a maximum sentence of 15 years behind bars could be considered. Indeed, if the case had been heard in the district rather than local court that sentence could have been handed down.

But Phan's solicitor said as the case had been heard in the lower court the appeal to the penalty should be limited to what that court could impose, which was a maximum of two years imprisonment.

 

Tina Thanh Truc Phan aspires to become a nurse.
Tina Thanh Truc Phan aspires to become a nurse.

 

Phan, he said, had been continuing her rehabilitation since the earlier sentence was imposed.

Magistrate Norman Delaney said in similar cases a balance had to be made between a sentence that acted as a deterrent but also took into account the age of the person and the effect the sentence could have on the rest of their lives. Although, Mr Delaney noted,

a spate of deaths at music festivals had raised the profile of such cases.

The judge adjourned the case until May 1 to allow submissions to be made on what basis the sentence should be reviewed.

At the January hearing, Magistrate Louise McManus said Phan's act of smuggling the 394 capsules internally was "a criminal offence and a deliberate act".

She said drug detector dogs at the festival had indicated Phan was carrying drugs and the teenager had them admitted to police she was carrying the capsules inside her.

"You are not an unintelligent young woman and you are wanting to get into a career where you are caring for people," Ms McManus told Phan.

"This is not just immature or a silly mistake, it was a criminal act which put people at risk."

But police said the community service was far too lenient

In January, the court heard that Phan was studious, had finished her HSC and was waiting to go to the University of Technology, Sydney, to study a bachelor of nursing, and that she played Oz Tag and did cross country running.

"And she's carrying 394 capsules of MDMA? What irony," Ms McManus said.

Phan's lawyer Cheryl Khurana told the court her client was "extremely remorseful and shamed".

 

Phan was allegedly asked by a ‘mutual friend’ to carry the drugs into the festival for money.
Phan was allegedly asked by a ‘mutual friend’ to carry the drugs into the festival for money.

 

Ms Khurana said Phan was aware a conviction could "well upset jobs prospects and her future".

"Her parents divorced after 21 years, her elder sister married in September," Ms Khurana said.

"She felt obligated to try and help out in terms of finances. Her mother works two jobs, as a butcher and a retail worker."

After Ms McManus rejected that defence, Ms Khurana told the court that a "mutual friend" had asked Phan to carry the drugs into the festival in return for money.

After Phan confessed she was carrying drugs internally concealed, police found a clear resealable bag containing a smaller resealable bag, which had the 394 capsules inside.

Phan had concealed the drugs inside "condoms and tissues" and resealable plastic bags.

On December 8 last year, police arrested five festival goers including Phan on drug charges at the Knockout Games of Destiny at Sydney Olympic Park.

Callum Brosnan, 19, was found collapsed at Sydney Olympic Park train station early on the Sunday morning after the festival.

He was taken to Concord Hospital where he died at 4.30am from a suspected drug overdose.

Police have not publicly revealed Mr Brosnan's cause of death and it is not suggested he took drugs allegedly supplied by Phan.

Fifteen people were taken to hospital after the Knockout Games of Destiny, three were placed in an induced coma and 130 sought medical treatment at the event.


Byron Shire Stars sharpen up their dance moves

Byron Shire Stars sharpen up their dance moves

Get in early for Stars of Byron Shire

Sally's story of hope

Sally's story of hope

Boardriders life member walks a positive path.

Market's Easter magic

Market's Easter magic

Mullum farmer's market is extra good this Friday