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Sunday, May 31, 2009

 

Quadriplegic drug lord sentenced to 10 years

Cripple drug lord caged for 10 years

By Marnie O'Neill

The Sunday Telegraph

May 31, 2009 12:00am

A QUADRIPLEGIC whose disability was compared to the late Superman actor Christopher Reeve, has been jailed for up to 10 years for conspiring to manufacture ecstasy.

Paul Baker, 36, of Colyton in Sydney's west, is the first quadriplegic in NSW history to receive a full-time custodial sentence.

District Court Judge Robert Toner's decision last Wednesday will force jail authorities to spend thousands of dollars modifying a cell for Baker - once they find a prison that can accommodate his considerable needs.

The NSW Department of Corrective Services has admitted it is yet to find a permanent jail cell for Baker, who is morbidly obese and needs 98 hours of care per fortnight, which will be provided by an independent care agency.

He cannot eat, drink, go to the toilet or wash by himself and requires a hoist to transfer him to bed from his motorised wheelchair - which he controls with a slight movement in one hand.

In court, Baker's lawyer compared his condition to that of Christopher Reeve, who became a quadriplegic after a horse-riding accident and died in 2004.

"We set up a committee to deal with (Baker) because we knew he would probably be getting a custodial sentence," a Corrective Services spokesman said.

"At the moment he is in Long Bay (jail) hospital in the aged-care and frailty unit. He'll be in there for an assessment and planning period while we look at various jails to figure out which would be most suitable to cope with his level of disability."

The department said it would cost about $200,000 per year to look after Baker, double the cost of an average "secure" prisoner.

Some $4000 was spent on modifying a truck to convey him from court to jail last week. It will be used again when, and if, authorities decide to relocate him.

His cell will have to be fitted with a hoist, special furniture and air-conditioning because Baker can no longer control his own body temperature, authorities said.

A former director of import companies, Baker pleaded guilty in 2007 to one count of conspiring with three other men to manufacture one tonne of ecstasy.

The court heard that Baker ordered importation of glassware used in the manufacture of the drug and a pill press found in his home. These were also used in a clandestine lab at Badgerys Creek.

The drug was to be manufactured with other chemicals and combined with 11 200-litre containers of methylamine, imported from China in 2005.

Police moved in before any drugs were made, the court heard. Judge Toner sentenced Baker to a maximum of 10 years six months, with a non-parole period of three years and six months.

Baker became a quadriplegic in 1995, after a car accident.

Original Story
Costs dilemma in jailing quadriplegic drug maker
Conspired with others to make more than a tonne of ecstasy … Paul Baker outside his home yesterday.

Conspired with others to make more than a ton of ecstasy … Paul Baker outside his home yesterday.
Photo: Adam Hollingworth

 

Les Kennedy
February 8, 2009

A CAR crash has already given Paul Baker a life sentence - next week it will be up to the NSW legal system to decide if he gets another.

Baker, 36, who is a quadriplegic, has pleaded guilty to conspiring with three other men to manufacture more than a tonne of ecstasy in 2005.

The charge carries a maximum of life imprisonment either in jail or by home detention. The decision on whether he is to become the first quadriplegic in NSW to serve a custodial term has fallen to Judge Robert Toner, who will next week hear sentencing submissions in the Downing Centre District Court.

Baker's solicitor, Michael Jokovic, declined to comment on the care needs of his client, which prison officials privately believe will outstrip the $301,000 average annual cost of keeping an inmate in the high-security supermax prison at Goulburn.

In written submissions to the court by Baker's defence, occupational therapist Sue Lukersmith said there was not a jail cell big enough to accommodate him and the equipment for his care. She evaluated assessments from 12 doctors and specialists on Baker's quadriplegia and also examined his care needs at his home in Colyton.

Baker, who uses his slight movement in one hand to get around on a motorised chair, became a quadriplegic in a motor vehicle accident in 1995.

Baker, a director of a number of import companies, pleaded guilty in 2007 to one count of conspiracy to manufacture a large commercial quantity of MDMA or ecstasy. The court heard that Baker was involved in the purchase of glassware used in the manufacture of the drug and a pill press was found in his home. These were used in a clandestine laboratory at Badgerys Creek.

The drug was to be manufactured with other chemicals and combined with 11 200-litre containers of methylamine, imported from China in 2005.

Police who broke up the syndicate said Baker was unaware of the plan until some months later but then helped his co-offenders research information, acquire other chemicals and equipment and search for properties for the covert lab.

In her report to the court, Ms Lukersmith said Baker required a minimum of 108 hours of personal care a week in a daily care regime of four shifts, which included his showering and feeding.

She listed among his requirements air-conditioned accommodation because he can no longer control his body temperature.

Her report said specialist equipment Baker required included electric wheelchairs, beds and hoists and voice-activated controls for lights and television. "He is dependent upon attendant carers for all aspects of personal care. This includes transfers, showering, drying, dressing, grooming, personal hygiene, toileting and eating," Ms Lukersmith said. She did not think the prison hospital system could provide Baker "with the minimum requirements" outlined in her report.

These included experienced personal attendant care and the training of any new carers that would be needed with staff shift changes.

A Department of Corrective Services spokesman said: "The department can't go into details about care issues in this case because it might be seen as trying to influence the sentencing process. However, where a court hands down a jail sentence, then the department has a duty to provide imprisonment."


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