Irishman on drug trafficking charges after Meredith Music Festival arrest

AN Irishman stands accused of attempting to traffick a variety of illicit drugs at the Meredith Music Festival after he was caught trying to sneak into the iconic event, a court has heard.

Matthew Fitzgerald, 29, appeared in the dock of Ballarat Magistrates Court yesterday where he faces charges including attempting to traffick a drug of dependence, trespassing and possessing amphetamines, cannabis, LSD and a hallucinogen.

Police opposed the application for bail on the grounds Fitzgerald might flee the country if released.

Senior Constable Simon Pearce from the Ballarat Divisional Response Unit gave evidence, saying Fitzgerald was approached by festival staff on Saturday evening while attempting to sneak into the venue via adjacent land.

He said Fitzgerald then pretended he needed to go to the toilet and walked behind a tree. 

But staff soon discovered two packages wrapped in toilet paper sitting under a rock by the tree, he said.

Police were called and Fitzgerald was arrested.

Inside the bags police found drugs alleged to include 263 capsules of amphetamines, 16 grams of LSD, three grams of cannabis, 16 Zanex tablets and 19 capsules of a brown substance believed to be magic mushrooms.

Senior Constable Pearce said Fitzgerald initially claimed he’d discovered the drugs on the ground near the tree, before admitting he intended to sell them at the festival “to pay off debts he has accrued”. Under cross examination from Fitzgerald’s defence, the officer said his fear that the Irishman might flee would be lessened if he surrendered his passport, lived at a fixed address and reported regularly to police.

Defence lawyer Mike Wardell claimed his client was a low flight risk, saying Fitzgerald had been living in Brunswick for over three years and was enrolled to study at the Centre for Adult Education next year.

Magistrate Peter Couzens granted bail on strict conditions, including that Fitzgerald surrender his passport within 24 hours.

Mr Couzens indicated that based on prosecution evidence there was “a reasonably strong circumstantial case”.

Fitzgerald is due back in court on January 23.

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