’Distinguished’ cop’s mental health coke defence rejected
A DISTINGUISHED police officer, who has witnessed "harrowing" and "traumatic" crimes working in the child abuse squad, will be sentenced for cocaine possession after a court refused to excuse him on mental health grounds.
Maurice Preston, 32, pleaded guilty to possessing a 0.93 gram bag of cocaine after he was stopped by police who were conducting a drug dog operation at The Star casino in early September.
A police fact sheet, released by the local court, says officers watched Preston enter the casino on an escalator, look at the them, turn around and immediately leave.
They followed Preston and spoke to him a short distance away.
"Police observed his eyes to be bloodshot, his pupils were enlarged and his speech was slurred," the document says.
He asked them to turn off their body-worn cameras, the fact sheet says.
"The accused immediately said 'I'm in the job, I'm a cop, I've got stuff on me. Please leave that off, I don't want the embarrassment'," the document says.
Preston's lawyer, Richard Schmidt, asked Magistrate Kate Thompson to deal with his client under the mental health act rather than the law.
The "distinguished" officer developed post traumatic stress disorder after witnessing countless deaths, suicides and child abuse cases as he rose through the ranks of the NSW Police and joined the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad, Mr Schmidt told the court on Wednesday.
Mr Schmidt said Preston's current role was "one of the most harrowing and mentally challenging" in the force.
"(It involves) hunting down the most depraved in society and, not only hunting them down, but seeing what they did," he said.
Preston had joined the specialist squad after acting in a supervisor role at Marrickville station, the court heard.
In that position he had to attend every death in a community that has high rates of mental health and suicide, the lawyer said.
The court heard he still has flashbacks after responding to a suicide at a train station.
Preston had been drinking at Randwick races - which Mr Schmidt described as a rare "luxury" for the hardworking officer - when he had been "exposed" to the cocaine.
The lawyer said the officer's otherwise flawless criminal history and conduct, the small amount of drugs in his possession and his psychological issues made him a good candidate for being dealt with under the mental health act.
While Magistrate Thompson accepted Preston had PTSD and depression as well as a "maladaptive" relationship with alcohol, she noted there was no link between his conditions and the drug possession.
She refused the request and ordered Preston to be sentenced in January.