By Hazel Osborne at the Whakatane Beacon
The man at the centre of a large-scale methamphetamine lab bust in Whakatāne this year has been jailed for 27 months.
Ricky Dean Simpson's family watched nervously from the public gallery of the Whakatane District Court on Wednesday as he appeared via audio visual link. He had earlier been remanded to prison.
Simpson, 56, was sentenced to 27 months in prison having previously pleaded guilty to allowing his premises to be used for the manufacturing of methamphetamine, two counts of possessing the drug, supplying the drug, possessing a cannabis plant, and unlawfully possessing a pistol.
Police raided Simpson's Alexander Ave home on February 13, unearthing a meth lab they described as the largest seen for some time.
They recovered methamphetamine, cannabis, "a whole lot of pistols" and other handguns, as well as chemicals and items used in the manufacture of meth. Valuables including a ring worth more than $100,000, silver coins, gold, jewellery and around $165,000 were also recovered.
Simpson was initially charged with possessing 25g of cannabis, possessing methamphetamine and allowing his premises to be used for manufacturing, allegedly by his son Calebh Simpson.
On April 9, while Simpson was on bail, police searched the same property again.
After this raid, he faced charges of unlawfully possessing a semi-automatic Zoraki M 906 and five rounds of ammunition, possessing methamphetamine and supplying the drug between January 10 and April 9.
Defence lawyer Roger Gowing said Simpson's involvement was merely a foolish enterprise to help his friends.
The court heard Simpson had provided only a small amount of meth to friends and one family member – about 12 people – and for no real pecuniary advantage for himself.
Gowing, who advocated for a prison sentence of 27 months, said Simpson had "turned a blind eye" to the manufacturing at the house and was remorseful about allowing it to continue.
Judge Ingram told Simpson that turning a blind eye made him responsible to a certain degree, and his continued offending while on bail and illegal possession of firearms was not to be taken lightly.
The court heard this was Simpson's first offending of this nature, and the circumstances were born out of "difficult times". The nature of his difficulties was not disclosed for privacy reasons.
"You got involved when you shouldn't have. I accept that you've had some difficult times, and this is what has led you down this path," Judge Ingram said.
"It's clear you're someone who doesn't really cause any trouble."
In sentencing, the judge took a starting point of 48 months' prison with reductions for the remorse shown, an early plea and co-operation with police.
Judge Ingram said meth was a serious problem in the Eastern Bay.
"There is not one day that I have spent here without meth charges put in front of me.
"Unfortunately, in the past five years, guns have become more and more of a regular occurrence as well."