Man hangs 'danger sign' to keep baby, kids out of meth lab
A COURT has heard how a father tried to keep a one, three and five-year-old child out of his at-home-meth lab by hanging a 'danger sign' on the other side of the door.
'Poison, keep out, danger, death is consequence': Those were the words on display outside the 23-year-old man's secret drug laboratory, found by police in 2016.
The biological father of two of the kids pleaded guilty to three counts of giving rise to danger from exposure of unlawful manufacturing in Bundaberg District Court yesterday - the maximum penalty for which is nine years in prison.
In terms of the lab itself, the man and his partner were sentenced to nine months prison with immediate parole in 2017.
The Crown prosecutor said because of some misunderstandings on behalf of police, the matters did not come before the courts at the same time - a detail she said that didn't reduce the defendant's culpability.
"Really the only appropriate sentence is a term of imprisonment...," she told Judge Jennifer Rosengren.
The court heard police exposed the drug lab after executing a search warrant at the man's house on April 13, 2016.
In one of the home's rooms officers found manufacturing equipment and chemicals consistent with a meth cook (a makeshift reaction vessel, iodine, sodium hydroxide and multiple gas burners).
Also inside the room were children's clothes and toys.
The Crown prosecutor said when police first entered the room their tongues and lips began to tingle, indicating there had been a recent meth cook.
The home was immediately evacuated and hair samples were taken from each child.
While the one year old returned the most severe meth and pseudoephedrine exposure level of 640, all three children tested positive to the dangerous substances.
Despite the Crown prosecutor's acknowledgement that the man had made some "positive progress" while on parole, she said the offending was still a matter that called for imprisonment.
The young dad's barrister, who strongly opposed this argument, said the three charges should have been dealt with back in 2017.
He argued his client had tried to prevent the children from being exposed and had been "distressed to the point of tears" when he'd learned that he'd failed.
"It simply did not occur to them (the man and his partner) that contact, transferred with hands etc. onto clothes and then onto the children might result in the sort of damage which he was otherwise trying to prevent," he said.
"There's been a recklessness ... but it's not a complete disregard for the welfare of the children.
"It's a mistake made in the course of producing drugs ... rather than having direct contact to a drug lab that was unsupervised..."
In response, Judge Rosengren pointed out the meth lab had been in the house where the kids lived.
"There's signs on the door that no one can read, the oldest if five years of age, and that's the extent to which the care has been taken," she said.
Judge Rosengren said the 23-year-old's actions were appalling and "extremely naive".
"You need to stand up to your responsibilities," she said.
He was sentenced to six months in prison for each charge to be served concurrently and was released on a $500 recognisance on the condition he be on good behaviour for nine months.