A MAN who supplied just shy of 1kg of the drug ice across Tamworth and further afar has been jailed for a maximum of six years.
Benjamin Francis Woodard was given a 25 per cent discount for his early guilty pleas, and Judge Jeffery McLennan found special circumstances for the now 34-year-old as he ordered him to spend at least three-and-a-half years behind bars.
Seated in the dock of Tamworth District Court on Tuesday, and flanked by family and supporters, Woodard was facing life behind bars for supplying a large commercial quantity of ice; dealing with the proceeds of crime, namely $36,350 in cash, a white Toyota Hilux and a motorbike; and acquiring a firearm without a licence.
Woodard has been in custody since early September 2017, when Oxley police swooped on him in a co-ordinated arrest, surrounding his car in Caves Beach near Newcastle as he went to buy another stash of drugs.
The undercover operation, code-named Strike Force Delaney, was launched in early 2017.
It quickly homed in on Woodard as a mid-level supplier who sourced his ice from higher up then supplied into areas in Tamworth, Coonabarabran and Coonamble.
Judge McLennan detailed different drug deals, in which Woodard bought 168g of ice for $33,700, only to return in less than two weeks to purchase another 112g of the same drug, then snapped up 292g within the next fortnight.
On the day police swooped, he had agreed to buy 196g of ice. Inside his car, officers found $36,350 cash hidden in a plastic shopping bag in the glovebox.
A co-accused, who police allege was going to deliver the drugs in exchange for the cash, fled the area when he noticed police closing in.
Over the three months, Woodard agreed to buy or did buy 992g of ice - which is "almost twice the threshold" for large commercial supply.
Judge McLennan said "there are a number of purchases for supply", and that it was clear Woodard was a mid-level dealer operating in an "organised drug supply network" but it was "not overly elaborate".
A co-accused, Jason Ritchie, was jailed for three-and-a-half years for supplying 152g of methylamphetamine, while two others remain before the court.
The court heard Woodard had a history of driving and dishonesty offences, which "deprives him of any leniancy", but it was "not an aggravating feature".
Woodard started smoking ice in 2014 on a hunting trip and hid his growing use from his family.
By 2016, he was "smoking 1g of ice daily" up until the day before his arrest. His use of ice "led to financial stress", which saw him begin stealing and supplying.
The court heard Woodard's anti-social behaviour and attitudes, together with gambling problems and lack of employment, spiralled and fuelled his substance abuse.
Woodard started using cocaine at age 31 and turned to amphetamines, also admitting to taking drugs while in custody.
He has the backing of family members, who are "devastated" at his "terrible mistake" but will support him.
Evidence from the family showed Woodard was "deeply ashamed for his actions".
He was known for his "helpful and generous nature" and "for donating mechanical skills to fix machinery of all types", but now that was tarnished by his drug dealing.
The court heard he had job opportunities and the support of family to help him once he's released on parole, which provides "an incentive" to toe the line, stay off the drugs and "rehabilitate" himself.
Judge McLennan said Woodard's admission to taking drugs in prison - two days before a specialist assessment - and his evidence on the stand "did not impress" him; and did "not inspire complete confidence" in his ability to rehabilitate.
The judge said sentencing had to send a clear message: people who supplied "this dangerous drug" needed to know "they will be sent to prison for long periods of time".
"This drug severely damages the fabric and the life of the community it penetrates," he said.
Woodard was jailed for six years with a non-parole period of three-and-a-half years.
After time served, he will be eligible for release in March 2021.