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Soldier's drug charges dismissed due to mental health issues

Date

Louis Andrews

A decorated soldier who pleaded guilty to drug possession, his offences brought on by the psychological traumas of conflict, has had his charges dismissed because of his mental health.

Former SAS member Gregory Robert Baker left military service at the rank of colonel after serving in East Timor and post-9-11 Kuwait.

In June 2001 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia’s military division for “exceptional service to the Australian Defence Force” in East Timor.

But on Wednesday Baker, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, pleaded guilty to nine drugs charges after a raid on his north Canberra home in November last year.

Police found MDMA, ketamine, methamphetamine and anabolic steroids in his room.

A family member noticed two suspicious males outside, notified police and later discovered the drugs stash.

The court was also told Baker had unresolved matters in the NSW judicial system.

His lawyer Jacqueline Agius said her client “found himself in this position because of his service”.

“It appears to me from the information provided to me….due to my client serving his country, and his service to his country, and the impact that has had on his life, he’s found himself before the court today,” Ms Agius said.

Magistrate Bernadette Boss raised a potential conflict of interest due to her own service with the army in East Timor.

But both the prosecution and defence were comfortable with Dr Boss continuing to hear the case.

Ms Agius said her client had a parachute accident in the 1980s when, during a jump, his chute failed to open correctly.

He also suffered from hearing loss due to his service.

Dr Boss said she was not surprised, given the material before her, his experiences left him with PTSD.

“Frankly I only did the basic parachute course but it terrified the life out of me and I only did the basic course, let alone having a parachute fail,” she said.

Dr Boss said ordinarily the number of the charges would warrant convictions, but Baker’s mental health concerns were mitigating factors.

“I’m also conscious of the fact that it’s still a relatively serious matter to be self-medicating with these drugs, and if there is a risk of a slippage back into self medication I believe it is in the interest of the community for that to be monitored,” she said.

The magistrate dismissed the charges on the grounds of his mental health, and ordered Baker to submit to the jurisdiction of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

The tribunal will now make a decision about whether Baker needs to be placed under a mental health treatment order.

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