An Illawarra meth dealer who used the supply of nearly a kilo of the drug 'ice' to fuel his own addiction has said his arrest was a case of divine intervention.
Matthew Golding, 47, escaped a jail sentence when he was sentenced in Wollongong District Court on Friday, September 8, instead receiving a 2 year, 11 month intensive corrections order for one count of supply a large commercial quantity of illicit drugs and one count of participate in a criminal group.
Golding took to the stand during a sentencing hearing to outline how in the lead up to his arrest on April 20, 2022, he was consuming up to an eight ball or an eighth of an ounce - 3.5 grams - a day.
To access and fund this habit, Golding supplied methylamphetamine by driving to Sydney to purchase from an upline supplier and then selling that in the Illawarra.
This pattern of behaviour developed after Golding suffered broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder in a workplace accident while working as a scaffolder in 2011. This caused Golding's recreational drug use to spiral into a full time habit.
Falling out of work, Golding turned to supplying methylamphetamine to fund his own addiction and this became his entire life.
Between 2017 and 2022, Golding lived out of his car and couch surfed and was fined multiple times for possession of small amounts of prohibited drugs. A windfall on online pokies delivered Golding $55,000, but rather than using this to break the cycle and find a more permanent home, Golding used the money to shout his associates drugs and purchase more for himself.
In early 2022, Golding's dealing escalated and police began to surveil Golding using phone taps as part of Strike Force Howley.
Police listened in as Golding made deals at McDonald's restaurants in south-west Sydney and then followed him as he sold these purchases to users and other suppliers in the Illawarra.
At the time, Golding said he was "constantly" smoking and injecting methylampethamine and believed that he was close to suffering a "heart attack, or I don't know where".
The night before his arrest, Golding made a request to a higher power.
"If there is somewhere up there, I need help," he said.
"The next morning, the police got me."
Police stopped Golding on Mount Ousley Road and arrested him after finding two phones in his Toyota Hilux subject to their intercepts. Forensic investigations of the vehicle found a magnetic box with 86 grams of meth inside.
Across the deals shadowed by police, Golding exchanged 832 grams of meth - with a street value of $400,000 - between March 16 and the date of his arrest and handled $110,000 in cash.
Following his arrest, Golding spent five months in custody, before being released on bail to live at a rehabilitation facility in north-west Sydney.
After 12 months in the rehabilitation sentence, and despite two relapses, Golding is now working at a pet food factory and Judge Andrew Haesler said the Golding who was arrested by police on Mount Ousley Road on April 20, 2022 was a different person to the one in the dock in Wollongong District Court of 8 September 2023, supported by his mother, sister and brothers-in-law.
"The evidence before me is that I am not sentencing that man," Judge Haesler said.
Taking this into account, as well as Golding's time and experience while in custody including an assault and long periods spent in lockdown, Judge Haesler said an "exceptional remedy" was required.
Judge Haesler sentenced Golding to an intensive corrections order for two years and 11 months, with the requirement that he complete 200 hours of community service, abstain from illicit drugs and engage in drug rehabilitation programs as required.
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