Bali Nine drug smuggler Renae Lawrence avoids jail over high-speed police chase
Bali Nine drug smuggler Renae Lawrence arrives at Newcastle Local Court for sentencing after pleading guilty to 2005 traffic offences. (ABC News: Ben Millington)
Bali Nine drug smuggler Renae Lawrence has avoided prison for crimes she committed in Australia more than a decade ago.
She was today fined $1,000 and placed on a 12-month Community Corrections Order after pleading guilty to a series of traffic offences.
In March 2005 Lawrence stole a car in Sydney and led police on a high-speed chase to the Central Coast before she was stopped by officers deploying road spikes at the Gosford turnoff.
A month later she was caught in Bali attempting to smuggle 2.7 kilograms of heroin back to Australia and spent 13 years in an Indonesian prison.
Last month Lawrence pleaded guilty to charges relating to the police chase, including speeding, stealing a car, unlicensed driving and failure to comply with police.
Today Lawrence finally faced Newcastle Local Court for sentencing.
Court told Lawrence is a ‘different person’
Her lawyer Drew Hamilton argued Lawrence was taking positive steps in her life, seeking employment and had pled guilty at the earliest opportunity.
He said she had undergone significant rehabilitation in Indonesia and the fact that her sentence in Indonesia was commuted from life to 20 years to 13 years for good behaviour “means a lot”.
“She is a different person than who should have come before the court in 2005,” Mr Hamilton said.
He said she is “taking positive steps” in her life towards employment and had worked with police to resolve these matters.
“Ms Lawrence put her hand up to draw a line in the sand to move forward for her and her family,” Mr Hamilton said.
“A resilient lady stands before your honour,” he said.
Mr Hamilton said his client had been “put through the wringer” from her experience in Bali and had been hounded by the media since her arrival back in Australia.
She had a drug abuse problem at the time of the offences but otherwise was not known to police.
Renae Lawrence arrives at Brisbane airport in November 2018 after being released from Indonesia’s Bangli Prison. (AAP: Dan Peled)
The police prosecutor Senior Sergeant Rebecca Witherspoon acknowledged the court may want to take into account what had occurred over the last 13 years and that if the matter had been dealt with in 2005 “we’d be asking for a significant penalty”.
As such the prosecutor argued a conviction and Community Corrections Order with supervision be issued as a penalty to allow for an assessment of Lawrence’s mental health and risk to the community.
“It allows whatever meaningful rehabilitation that has occurred to be taken into consideration while protecting the community,” Senior Sergeant Witherspoon said.
Magistrate Sharon Crews said the sentencing was a “balancing exercise” and that she hoped Lawrence approached life with “promise and hope” with the “resolve to become a law-abiding citizen”.
“Hopefully you will be left to go about your life,” she said.