A YOUNG couple's decision to courier drugs - which police intercepted at Childers - has left their sons parentless for six months.
Police watched Mark Anthony Dreghorn, now 30, and Melissa Rose-Ann McPhee, 28, exchange something with a drug trafficker, who was under surveillance, at the Ettamogah Pub on the Sunshine Coast on April 7, 2012.
Officers intercepted them a few hours later at Childers where they found 1000 pills in the glove box, almost 10kg of cannabis in one-pound lots (445-453g) in the boot and $5805 cash.
Their new car, which McPhee had picked up from Brisbane earlier that day, was seized and a further search, months later, uncovered a further 590 ecstasy tablets with 12.9% purity (about 25g) concealed in the wheel jack storage area and methylamphetamines inside a cigarette lighter.
Dreghorn and McPhee, who met at school and have two sons - aged five and eight, pleaded guilty in Brisbane Supreme Court yesterday to a variety of drug offences after a trafficking charge was dropped.
The parents sobbed as they were led out of the courtroom to serve their 2½-year jail term. Dreghorn will be released after serving 10 months and McPhee after serving six months.
Crown prosecutor Sarah Farnden said the 1000 blue pills, consistent with an anticipated exchange police heard during telephone intercepts, turned out to be a cough suppressant drug found in many over-the-counter cold and cough medicines.
She said Wikipedia suggested the drug had some recreational use but it was not unlawful to possess the drug.
Ms Farnden said Dreghorn's fingerprints were on cannabis and ecstasy packages and the Crown believed his wife was actively involved in the transaction.
"There were messages on her mobile phone that were drug related and refer perhaps to incoming supply being taken back to Mackay," she said.
Defence barrister Anthony Collins said the couple had shifted their children to another school in the Mackay area so they could live with McPhee's parents when they went to jail. He said the pair owned a construction company with four employees and had minor drug histories.
"They are persons who have been involved to a degree in drug consumption themselves ... but there is nothing which takes this beyond the suggestion they are acting as couriers for another person," he said.
Justice Glenn Martin said he had no trouble concluding there was a commercial element to the offending considering the drug quantities.
He said he gave McPhee a lower sentence "because it is important that young children not be separated from at least one parent for any longer than society will demand".
"But society does require that these types of offences be denounced... through at least the imposition of some period of imprisonment," he said.
INSIDE THE COURIER CAR
1000 dextromethorphan (cough suppressant) tablets in glove box
9.874kg of marijuana in boot
590 ecstasy tablets weighing 195.7g (12.9% purity)
Small amount of methylamphetamines inside a cigarette lighter.