Accused Naracoorte drug traffickers freed

Five accused drug dealers - three of them from Naracoorte - walked free from court this week.

The five men were among eight arrested after a major 12-month investigation into the illicit drug trade in the South East - specifically Naracoorte, Penola and Mount Gambier - in June last year.

They were facing charges of trafficking illicit drugs including methamphetamine and cannabis.

After first being taken into custody nearly 12 months ago, on Monday this week in Mount Gambier Magistrates Court, the men had their charges dismissed by Magistrate Theresa Anderson due to ongoing prosecution delays.

Prosecution applied for an extension to reach a charge determination, but Magistrate Anderson refused.

The men released were:

Aaron Devereux, 34 (at time of arrest), of Penola, originally charged with seven counts of trafficking a controlled drug.

Jason Davies, 45, of Naracoorte, charged with 31 counts of trafficking a controlled drug and three counts of trafficking a commercial quantity of a drug.

Aaron Brooksby, 39, of Naracoorte, charged with 10 counts of trafficking a controlled drug.

James Hillman, 47, of Naracoorte, charged with 13 counts of trafficking a controlled drug and two counts of trafficking a commercial quantity of a drug.

Brenton Davies, 25, of Mount Gambier, charged with one count of possessing a firearm, one count of trafficking a controlled drug and one count of trafficking a commercial quantity of a drug.

Other media has reported that Magistrate Anderson said the defendants could be re-arrested if the Director of Public Prosecutions decided the charges would proceed in the future.

BACKGROUND. At the men's first court hearing back in June, 2018, the court heard that police had intercepted phone and text messages where the accused men allegedly used coded language to make drug transactions.

They talked in terms of selling car or motorcycle parts, or fish, which police allege was code for quantities of drugs. They also discussed "paperwork" which they allege was code for payment amounts for the drugs.

A total of 43 police officers, led by the Serious and Organised Crime Branch (SOCB), searched nine properties in the three towns last Thursday morning, and made the eight arrests.

Also involved in the operation were detectives from the Mount Gambier CIB, the Dog Operations Unit and police from the Limestone Coast Local Service Area.

Detective Chief Inspector Tony Crameri, from the SOCB's Drug and Organised Crime Task Force, said at the time his branch regularly work collaboratively with local police to target the supply of methylamphetamine.

"Methylamphetamine has a damaging impact upon our community, particularly in regards to health and law and order. The harms associated with illicit drug use, including Ice, are often magnified in rural communities.

"This investigation, conducted under the framework of the SA Police Operation ATLAS which is focused on disrupting the methylamphetamine trade, is an example of police actively targeting drug dealers based in country locations.

"The community can assist with this effort by calling Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 with information about the sale and manufacture of illicit drugs."