13 05 2008

Disabled man faces prison

By Linda Silmalis

May 11, 2008

heraldsun.com.au

http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,23679517-662,00.html

Prison authorities are grappling with the dilemma of how to accommodate a quadriplegic man facing a jail sentence for conspiring to manufacture ecstasy.

Paul Baker, 36, uses a motorised wheelchair to move around and needs daily home help from carers totalling 35 hours a week.

Despite his disability, Baker last year pleaded guilty to a charge of one count of conspiracy to manufacture a prohibited drug.

If Baker receives a custodial sentence, he will be the first quadriplegic to be jailed in NSW.

There are currently three inmates in a wheelchair.

According to facts tendered in court, Baker requires “constant care for day-to-day living”.

A spokesman for State Justice Minister John Hatzistergos said the department made every effort to comply with court orders.

However, prison sources say the cost of accommodating Baker in prison could amount to thousands of dollars.

Baker is alleged to have conspired with three others to manufacture a large commercial quantity of MDMA, or ecstasy.

Police allege one of the co-accused, Michael Salitra, arranged in May, 2005 for the importation of 11 200-litre containers of methylamine, a chemical capable of being converted into MDMA.

Baker, who is the proprietor of several importation companies, was unaware of the plan until some months later. But police allege that after Baker found out he helped his co-offenders research information, acquire the relevant chemicals and necessary equipment and search for properties that would be suitable to set up a secret lab.

It is alleged Baker’s main role was to obtain the glassware and hardware required to conduct the manufacture through his importation companies.

Police say Baker also offered Salitra to help out in storing drums of oleic acid, which is used as a disguise for the importation of methylamine.

In August, 2005, police allege Baker and Salitra met with Cameron Rawsthorne in the home of Ararat Damirdjian, where they spoke of what they would need to manufacture MDMA.

At the meeting, Baker indicated he had a company set up that could import equipment from China or India, police claim.

The profits were to be split four ways, police claim.

The alleged plot was foiled after police searched the properties of the four.

Police allege they found a tablet press and parts, three scientific glass elbow joints, two electric stirrers and various chemicals in Baker’s home.

Baker’s lawyer declined to comment. The matter has been listed for mention in the District Court on July 11.

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