Drug dealing went beyond addiction: judge

Dunedin District Court. Photo: ODT files
Dunedin District Court. Photo: ODT files
A "one-man-band" drug dealer who set himself up as a safer alternative to gangs has been jailed for 21 months.

John Shaun Bishop, 32, had such a thriving cannabis business he could have been making $200,000 a year from selling the class-C substance, the Dunedin District Court heard yesterday.

Police, though, caught him after three months, during which he raked in a conservative total of $47,897.

It was not the first time he had been identified as a dealer.

In 2021, police seized 350g of cannabis and $1170 from the proceeds of sales.

Bishop was dealt with by an alternative-resolutions process, which gave him the chance to address his addiction issues and kept him out of court.

But the brush with the law did not have the desired effect.

Between May and July last year, Bishop sold cannabis in varying amounts — from $50 bags to ounces.

On August 3, officers executed a sting on his home and he showed them to his bedroom where there was $11,000 of the drug packed and ready for sale, as well as scales, a "burner phone" and $13,893 cash.

Counsel Andrew Dawson stressed his client’s addiction issues, which had been present since the age of 15.

But Judge Michael Turner said that could not account for the scale of the illicit enterprise.

"I accept there's evidence of addiction but this offending can't be explained on that basis because this offending is highly commercialised — not necessarily sophisticated — that went well above what was necessary to deal with any addiction," he said.

"You weren't smoking $200,000 of cannabis a year."

Mr Dawson stressed while Bishop clearly had access to large quantities of cannabis, he operated as a "one-man band" and had no-one working for him.

Since charges were laid, the defendant had undertaken a nine-week residential course and was determined to move past his addiction, the court heard.

He told Probation he had set himself up as a safer option for buyers, rather than dealing with gangs.

Mr Dawson argued home detention was the appropriate outcome.

Judge Turner gave Bishop credit for the efforts he had made but said the repeated criminality had to be met with a custodial sentence.

"It shows an attitude by Mr Bishop to continue with his drug-dealing activities notwithstanding efforts by the authorities to keep him out of the general justice system and to allow him the opportunity to address his rehabilitative needs," he said.

The judge ordered forfeiture of the cash and the drug paraphernalia.