Georgina Bartter’s close friend, Rebecca Hannibal, has been charged with drug supply in relation to Bartter’s death at Harbourlife music festival in Sydney last year. Also charged is Matthew Forti, who is alleged to have been the drug dealer who supplied the drug which caused Bartter’s death. Sydney Criminal Defence Lawyers follows on from our earlier blog on this topic (see below).
Hannibal’s first court appearance was in Hannibal, where she pleaded not guilty, however details of her name have been suppressed while investigations against Forti were ongoing. Forti has also been charged in relation to another supply.
At this stage, Hannibal’s defence is unknown. The police will probably allege that she actually gave the pill(s) to Bartter and maybe others, and obtained them from Forti for this purpose. Her defence will have to be that she did not give anyone pills. If she claims that she did possess some pills, but kept them for herself, she would need to prove this on the balance of probabilities, in which case she would only be guilty of possession, which might also be charged as a back-up. If it is not charged, the police would need to lay the possession charge before six months have passed since the alleged offence, which would be 6 May 2015, otherwise s 179 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 operates to preclude the police from laying this charge. Sydney Criminal Defence Lawyers have won cases in the past on the basis of proving that the person charged with supply in fact had the drugs in their possession for personal use, and where the police have not laid a back-up of possession and six months have passed, our clients have walked free.
Even though she has pleaded not guilty, in the event that Hannibal has no priors, and the quantity of drugs supplied is relatively small, if found guilty Hannibal is likely to receive a s 9 good behaviour bond with a conviction. Alternatively, she might be fined, and at worst, receive community service. Hannibal cannot be convicted of manslaughter because Bartter’s decision to take the pills was a voluntary act. If Bartter and Hannibal were alone in a private residence, and Hannibal failed to call for help after Bartter became seriously ill, manslaughter on the basis of gross criminal negligence might be made out. However, there would be an issue of causation: if Bartter was doomed to die as soon as she took the drugs and there was nothing Hannibal could do to save her, then at law it is unlikely Hannibal could be said to have caused Batter’s death by not assisting her after she became ill. An alternative basis of manslaughter is manslaughter by unlawful and dangerous act. It could be alleged that it was an unlawful act to supply Bartter with drugs, as well as dangerous. While the unlawful component would be easily satisfied, the danger part might not be made out. If, as the media reports suggest, there was a one in 10 million chance that Bartter would have died after taking the drugs, then perhaps the act of supplying the drugs could not be characterised as dangerous, as the risk of serious harm was so low. It might also be argued that the dangerous act is not the supply by someone but the actual ingestion of the drug by the individual.
Forti is in a more serious position than Hannibal. This is because he is accused of actual drug-dealing for profit on multiple occasions and on a bigger scale. He faces a custodial sentence. His best bet is probably a community service order.
Image credit: Facebook and Sydney Morning Herald
Follow Sydney Criminal Defence Lawyers on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/scdlawyer) and Google+ (https://plus.google.com/111495311017864266190/posts?hl=en).