The former air traffic controller's life crashed after he took to heavy drug use.
The former air traffic controller's life crashed after he took to heavy drug use.

How to go from highflyer to broke drug addict in one year

ANYONE doubting the destructive nature of illicit drugs or how quickly addiction can spiral one's life out of control, need look no further than Matthew Raymond Carnes.

At 45, the former air traffic controller and Royal Australian Air Force commissioned officer had never touched drugs and had no criminal convictions.

At 46, he stood before the Toowoomba Supreme Court pleading guilty to possessing methylamphetamine well above the 2g schedule and to possessing cannabis, heroin, cocaine and MDMA (ecstasy) and associated drug utensils.

Carnes was pulled over by police for doing 77kmh in the 60kmh zone on the Toowoomba Range on November 1, 2018, the court heard.

Police became suspicious at the driver's nervous disposition and spent the next hour searching his car.

Officers founds 9.8g of crystalline substance in 15 separate clip seal bags which, when analysed, was found to have a meth purity of 75%, Crown prosecutor Mark Green said.

Carnes admitted he intended to sell the bags for cash to obtain more drugs, but the rest of the drugs found were for his own use.

Just months earlier, he was caught with 5g of meth in New South Wales for which he was ultimately placed on community-based orders, the court heard.

His barrister David Jones explained that despite having endured a difficult childhood with a drunk and abusive father, his client excelled at school and was vice-captain of his high school in Brisbane.

After school, Carnes completed a Bachelor of Business and Accounting at university, married and had two children, he said.

His client enjoyed a successful family and working life, spent time in all three defence force services before taking a job with Airservices Australia in Sydney in 2010 where he remained until 2017 when he was found medically unfit due to a neck injury and put off in April 2018, Mr Jones said.

"Prior to losing his employment, Mr Carnes had never used or even experimented with drugs," Mr Jones told the court.

His client divorced and, his children having grown up, he found himself with no responsibilities, he said.

Having received a large lump sum termination payment from his employer, the 45-year-old was soon introduced to methylamphetamine.

"He went from having a lot of money in the bank to having a few hundred dollars," Mr Jones said.

His client had sought professional help since his arrest on the Range and benefited from his NSW probation order, he said.

Justice Peter Applegarth said it was unusual for someone with that amount of drugs not to serve actual time in custody but, upon reflection, he would structure a sentence that would see Carnes continue his rehabilitation in the community.

Justice Applegarth sentenced Carnes to three years in jail but ordered he be released on immediate parole.


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