Judge sends strong message to drug dealers

Drug dealers have been warned the "heinous nature" of methamphetamine will earn them long spells in prison, with the first life sentence being handed out for manufacturing the drug.

Albert Rhodes, a drug dealer with a long list of convictions in New Zealand, and who owes the Australian Government $20 million in a pecuniary penalty order, created legal history this month.

He was the first in New Zealand to be jailed for life for manufacturing methamphetamine when sentenced by Justice Helen Winkelmann in the High Court at Auckland on five charges.

She said there was no doubt Rhodes, 53, was a menace to society and the human cost of his drug offending would have been great.

She said a life sentence was needed to deter Rhodes and others from similar offending and to protect the community.

Rhodes was part of a highly sophisticated and commercial drug ring which included his brother and four others.

The ring stockpiled the ingredients to make methamphetamine, made the drug and then supplied it to others.

As well as the five charges of manufacturing the drug, Rhodes also faced 27 other charges and was jailed for a range of terms from two years to seven years.

Another member of the same ring, Stephen Kissling, 40, was jailed for 20 years for manufacturing methamphetamine with a minimum non-parole period of nine years.

Paul Robinson, 55, was jailed for 16 years with a non-parole period of seven years; Xing Su, 24, was jailed for four years and nine months; Richard Rhodes, 58, was jailed for six years and six months; and Glenn Gollop, 37, for 12 years with a minimum non-parole period of six years.

The officer in charge of the case, Detective Senior Sergeant Bruce Howard, said the jail terms sent a particularly strong message to those people who wanted to manufacture methamphetamine.

"The courts are recognising the heinous nature of offences that are caused directly as a result of the manufacture and use of methamphetamine.

"This might given them something of a message why they shouldn't undertake that particularly activity," he said.

A life jail sentence for any drug offences was relatively rare in New Zealand.

Only four life sentences had been imposed before Rhodes was jailed. Two of those were in the 1970s when Mr Asia kingpin Terry Clark led a drug ring which trafficked heroin into New Zealand, Australia and Britain and was believed to be responsible for several murders.

The other two were last year for the importation of nearly 100kg of methamphetamine.

Judge Winkelmann told Rhodes when she sentenced him that although he denied drug and alcohol problems he spent $1000 a week on gambling.

His New Zealand convictions went back to 1970 and he was jailed several times in Australia, including a year for improperly interfering with the body of a man who died while guarding Rhodes' cannabis crop.

In Australia the State of Queensland was awarded a pecuniary penalty order for $20 million. A court makes a pecuniary penalty order on the basis of what it believes an offender had made from illegal activities such as drug dealing.

Rhodes was deported to New Zealand in 2004.

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