Sarah-Jan Cavanah as she was taken out of the courthouse.
Sarah-Jan Cavanah as she was taken out of the courthouse. Andrew Messenger

Family accused of organising 'sophisticated' drug syndicate

FOUR Cunnamulla residents are accused of organising a "sophisticated" drug syndicate within their family group, importing marijuana and ice into the town over a five to six-month period last year.

A four-month police operation, North Twinzer,  came to an end with raids on Saturday.

Twenty-seven people were arrested on 153 charges, based on material collected from telephone intercepts.

The 27 represent a large  proportion of the 1800-strong community. Around 1.5% of the population were arrested in one fell swoop as police descended on the weekend.

The most serious charges, against  Darren John Shillingsworth, Kathleen Albertha Brown, Amanda Maree Hooper and Sarah Jane Cavanough, were heard in Charleville Magistrates Court  on Monday morning. All four were denied bail after being charged with drug trafficking and other offences. Five other people were arrested on  trafficking charges on the weekend.

Ms Hooper, 41, who works at South West Worker's Skill Centre as a supervisor, was described as an "upstanding citizen" by her defence lawyer Laurie Parker. But the police prosecutor alleged  she earned most of her income by  arranging for cannabis to be brought into the town.

Ms Brown was accused by the police prosecutor of advertising for her drug syndicate. She was also alleged to have arranged for drugs to be brought in from as far away as Brisbane. When another alleged drug dealer ran out of supply, police allege she topped him up.

The police prosecutor also alleged that she bragged about having a person employed for selling drugs in Thargomindah.

Darren John Shillingsworth was charged with aggravated supply of a dangerous drug  to a minor under 16 years and 22 counts of supplying dangerous drugs, in addition to his trafficking charge.

Detective Inspector Kerry Johnson, from the South West Police District,   said police had been supported by the local community in targeting drug use and distribution in the area.

"We met with the local community and we gave them a commitment to address the drug issues in the area, and the arrests this weekend are the result of months of hard work," he said.