ON THURSDAY, French backpacker Jeremy Granier was the first among four people to be sentenced over drug trafficking charges obtained at the recent Rainbow Serpent music festival.
The 24-year-old was in possession of 3.1 grams of cocaine, 4.6g of MDMA, more than 120 MDMA capsules and $2883 in cash, and was sentenced to three months in jail. He has since appealed the sentence.
A 31-year old Italian man is set to appear before court on February 18, while another French man, unassociated with Granier, is set to appear on February 24. A 33-year-old Healsville man will also appear before court in the near future.
While these were the most blatant in the string of arrests and charges which were recorded across the six-day blitz conducted by Victoria Police, a further 51 people were charged for crimes ranging from driving under the influence of drugs to sexual assault.
However Inspector Bruce Thomas told The Courier “it is not and was never our intention to shut the festival down.”
It follows a previous police statement which said “the staggering results have prompted police to call on the community and festival organisers to consider whether the event is in the best interests of public safety.”
“Our goal is to eliminate drug use and drug driving at this event and we will explore every means possible to try and achieve that,” Inspector Thomas said.
The strong response comes after government and law enforcement agencies in New South Wales ramped up their rhetoric surrounding music festivals, with NSW Police Minister Troy Grant saying festivals could be shut down if organisers did not take further action to discourage drug use.
A further two deaths were recorded in South Australia in December following drug overdoses at two different festivals.
While no individuals were charged with the possession of a non-traffickable volume of illicit substances at the Rainbow Serpent festival, Inspector Thomas said this was due to a police focus on drug trafficking and drug driving. “On this occasion, we focused our efforts on those trafficking drugs and drug drivers to create the safest environment possible at the event.”
Police are set to meet with the event organisers, Pyrenees Shire councillors and other emergency services in coming weeks for the festival debrief. Despite calls for alternative avenues to be explored, Victoria Police’s zero-tolerance drug stance remains.
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