A Tauranga man caught importing ecstasy powder and tablets, who claimed he got the idea from watching a television programme, has been jailed for 16 months.

Ashley Brian Hillis, 22, of Welcome Bay, was sentenced in the Tauranga District Court yesterday after pleading guilty to importing ecstasy.

The maximum penalty for the charge is 14 years' prison.

The court was told that between August 1 and September 26 last year Hillis accessed the "dark web" site Silk Rd and ordered 10g of ecstasy powder to be sent to his home.


He later received an envelope from the Netherlands containing the drug, which he consumed.

Hillis accessed the same website twice more; first to order 10 tablets of the same drug, then to order 50 tablets and 25g of ecstasy powder.

On both occasions Customs officers intercepted the two imported drug packages.

Hillis told police he got the idea to import the drugs from watching a TV programme, and said he deeply regretted his actions.

Crown prosecutor Ashley Shore argued that given the gravity of the offending, and Hillis' two prior drug convictions, including selling cannabis, a prison sentence was warranted.

Shore suggested a starting point of four years before allowing discounts for an early guilty plea and any other mitigating factors.

Lawyer Nicholas Dutch said his client's offending was in a different category to offenders who imported drugs to sell to other people.

There was no evidence that this was a commercial scale operation, and Hillis had imported for personal use.

Dutch said a suspended prison sentence or home detention would be appropriate.

Despite Community Probation's concerns about Hillis' ability to serve home detention at a family member's home, the parties had signed a written contract outlining a set of house rules he would have to abide by, he said.

Judge Emma Parson said Hillis was involved with a type of "pernicious offending" that had to be treated seriously.

The court had to not only hold Hillis to account, but also deter him and others from engaging in this type of crime with the sentence she had imposed, she said.

Judge Parson said that, given Hillis' age, she was prepared to grant him leave to apply for home detention to be served at another address.

What is the "dark web"?

It exists on "darknets", or overlay networks that use the public internet

It requires special access

It is not indexed by search engines

Identities and locations of darknet users stay anonymous

- Source: Wikipedia