Judge acquits alleged drug trafficker after girlfriend confesses at trial

A man has been acquitted of serious drug trafficking offences after his girlfriend testified that incriminating text messages and social media posts about drug deals on his mobile phone were sent by her.

The Supreme Court in Brisbane, during a five-day, judge-alone trial, was told that Dale Edward Pyritz was charged with five drug-related offences after police stopped and searched a car he was a passenger in at Pelican Waters, on the Sunshine Coast, on 31 March last year.

Justice Frances Williams was told Pyrtiz’s charges were the result of police finding drugs in a rented Holden Colorado ute being driven by his partner, Deanne McHarry, and text messages and social media posts of alleged drug-trafficking deals found on his personal mobile phone.

Pyritz pleaded not guilty to one count each of trafficking and then possessing methyl amphetamine and cannabis, and possession of a mobile phone used to traffic drugs between 4 and 31 March, 2019.

Pyritz’s lawyers argued his innocence on the grounds that Ms McHarry had sent the phone texts and posted a message to his Facebook account, and was prepared to testify to doing so under oath.

The Crown opposed a defence application to call Ms McHarry to testify at the trial on the grounds she was not relevant, not compellable and not reliable. However, on 5 November Justice Williams ruled that Ms McHarry should be allowed give evidence.

Her Honour’s written ruling said: “(Ms McHarry) is clearly a relevant witness in that it is anticipated she will give evidence that she was the person who sent the messages on the … mobile telephone which belonged to (Pyritz).”

The court was told that, prior to testifying, Ms McHarry received advice from Legal Aid Queensland in relation to her right to claim privilege against self-incrimination.

Justice Williams said: “Ms McHarry answered questions she was asked … without claiming the privilege against self-incrimination even though the answers tended to show that she committed a criminal offence, namely trafficking in dangerous drugs.”

In her evidence, Ms McHarry said she had been in a relationship with Pyritz for 4½ years at the time police pulled them over in response to a report of failure to return the rental vehicle at the required time.

During a subsequent search, police located quantities of drugs and a mobile phone belonging to Pyritz which contained incriminating text messages.

In finding Pyritz not guilty of all five charges, Justice Williams said: “Ms McHarry has given sworn evidence that she sent the messages without the knowledge or authority of (Pyrtiz).”

“She pretended to be (Pyritz) sending the messages intentionally so people thought they were dealing with a male.

“She thought she would get better traction supplying drugs to people as a male and others would more likely listen and do what she wanted if they thought they were dealing with a male.

“I accept the evidence of Ms McHarry to the extent that the messages were sent by her without the authority of (Pyritz).

“As a result … the Crown has not established beyond reasonable doubt that (Pyritz) was the person sending the relevant drug-related messages on the … mobile telephone or that he had sufficient knowledge of (Ms McHarry’s) activities.

“Accordingly, the Crown has not established beyond a reasonable doubt that (Pyritz) is guilty of … (drug) trafficking.”

Read Justice Williams’ verdict and reasons, and her Honour’s ruling calling witness to testify.

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