Illawarra drug dealer caught in sting avoids jail

An Illawarra drug dealer has avoided full-time jail after he was caught in a police sting targeting a drug house at Albion Park Rail.

Steven Watson, 24, faced a sitting of the District Court in Sutherland on Monday to answer a charge of supplying amphetamine.

The court heard police were carrying out covert surveillance on the Albion Park Rail house, a suspected drug den, on August 20 last year when they noticed Watson’s Holden Commodore pull up outside.

A short time later a man exited the house and met Watson at the car. The pair had a short conversation before the other man returned to the house.

Watson then drove off towards Oak Flats, followed by police.

He was pulled over on Industrial Road, however as police approached the car, they said it appeared Watson was trying to stash various items in concealed parts of the car.

Becoming suspicious, officers removed Watson from the car and searched it.

Inside they found a resealable plastic bag containing 1.5 grams of methamphetamine and a long, black knife, which Watson told them he carried for his own protection.

Police then searched Watson, discovering an Eclipse Mints tin full of tablets in his pocket.

He told officers the tablets were ecstasy, and there were about 40 in the container.

Police facts before the court said the tablets, eventually found to number 70, were forensically tested and found to be methorphan, a distant relative of methamphetamine.

The drug was weighed at 21.47 grams - more than four times the indictable quantity.

In court on Monday, Watson’s lawyer, Jane Healey, said her client had no criminal convictions on his record and had abided by his strict bail conditions for a year without incident.

‘‘At the time of the offence Your Honour, life was spiralling out of control for Mr Watson,’’ she said.

‘‘He’d been the victim of a significant personal violence incident and was taking drugs and mixing with the drug-taking crowd to deal with those difficulties.

‘‘His arrest was a wake-up call.’’

Ms Healey said Watson had successfully completed a court-ordered drug treatment program, had a strong work history and the full support of his family.

Presiding judge Paul Conlon agreed to suspend Watson’s 12-month jail term, noting his clean record and good prospects of rehabilitation if he continued to keep away from drugs.