Bellambi drug dealer given reduced sentence

A Bellambi ice dealer's notable turnaround since his arrest on drug supply charges earlier this year has earned him a reduced sentence.

Dani Bacha yesterday told Wollongong District Court he was ultimately relieved to have been busted in February for dealing thousands of dollars worth of drugs, saying he didn't realise how bad his life had become.

"They did me a favour," he said yesterday, referring to the police who arrested him following a four-month investigation.

"It took me getting arrested to see the life I was living."

Bacha said he was introduced to Oolong House, a Nowra-based rehabilitation centre that conducts 16-week intensive treatment programs for abusers of alcohol and other drugs, when he first entered custody.

He was released on Supreme Court bail four months later in order to attend the centre's drug program.

He told the court Oolong House staff taught him skills to help him combat his addiction and offered up sound advice to keep him on the straight and narrow, including casting aside friendships from his "drugging" days.

"They show you that you can enjoy life living drug free."

Bacha's lawyer, Nerissa Keay, said Bacha had excelled at the course, to the point he had been offered a paid position during the Christmas period if he was released on bail in time.

Oolong House chief executive Ivan Ardler yesterday confirmed the arrangement in court, saying Bacha had displayed great dedication to the program.

"It's a very unusual situation for a client of the house to do so well in the program," he said of Bacha's achievement.

He also said in his eight years as CEO of Oolong he had been to Wollongong District Court only three other times to advocate for clients.

The court heard Bacha had been taking drugs for the better part of 12 years, but his consumption increased following the breakdown of his marriage and loss of his business in 2006.

He began dealing drugs in order to subsidise his own habit.

Police, who had been carrying out a wider drug operation in the Illawarra, zeroed in on Bacha in November last year and began monitoring his calls and text messages.

Covert police surveillance between November and February recorded him organising and carrying out more than 200 deals at various locations across the greater Wollongong area.

Presiding Judge Andrew Haesler acknowledged the seriousness of Bacha's behaviour, but said he could not ignore his extraordinary, post-treatment turn around, which he said was "impressive".

"I'm reasonably confident he's got the strength and training to resist temptations that may arise in the future," he said.

Judge Haesler ordered Bacha to serve an overall sentence of four years' jail, with a non-parole period of 12 months.

He agreed to backdate the start date to include the time Bacha had been in custody, and the time he'd spent at Oolong House.

He will be eligible for release on parole on April 2 next year.

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