Aaron Bunch Journalist with Australian Associated Press | Collection of published work | + 61 484 008 119 | abunch@aap.com.au

Aaron Bunch
Jailed Brit say COVID-19 has created hysteria in Qld jail

A British man charged with the possession and supply of dangerous drugs over $90 million of illegal drugs wants bail so he can move to a detention centre.

April 14, 2020

A British national with alleged links to an international drug syndicate that attempted to import $90 million of illegal drugs into Queensland has applied for bail, saying COVID-19 fear had created hysteria in prison.

Ashley Kevin James Cooper, 40, says if he were to be released he would be immediately detained in an immigration facility, which would be a vast improvement on the Brisbane jail he is currently remanded in.

He was charged with the possession and supply of dangerous drugs in August 2018 following the record-breaking seizure of 766 kilograms of MDMA powder.

Police said at the time the drug haul was the largest of its kind recorded in Queensland and the third largest in Australia.

The powder was also the highest purity recorded in the state and enough to make up to 12 million ecstasy pills.

Cooper wants to be released from Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre, saying it is a hostile place where drugs and violence are widespread and COVID-19 hysteria has set in.

“It led to the recent, well-publicised on national television, rooftop protest,” he told the Brisbane Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Cooper, who represented himself via video-link at the hearing, said that as he was in Australia unlawfully, he would be immediately detained by immigration officials if granted bail.

This would lead to better access to telephones, the internet and ultimately his legal team, whom he had been struggling to contact since the coronavirus social distancing measures led to visitors being banned at the prison.

“And most importantly, my family, who are my only support network, all back in the United Kingdom,” he said.

“They are constantly worried about my wellbeing in a maximum-security prison, especially considering the current situation.”

Cooper said he would also have access to improved medical facilities, counsellors, and drug rehabilitation programs, which he said had been cancelled at the prison.

“I would be in a much more secure, positive, healthy environment,” he said.

Justice Soraya Ryan cast doubt on Cooper’s description of immigration detention centres, saying they too were likely to have implemented social distancing measures.

She adjourned the matter until April 22 to seek further information.

Seven people, including Cooper, were charged in relation to the syndicate.

Another British man, aged 51, was arrested in Queensland.

Two UK men, aged 60 and 49, were arrested in New Zealand after authorities in Auckland seized 200kg of the drug ice destined for their local market through the same syndicate.

Two men from Queensland and a woman from NSW were also charged.

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