Pubdate: Mon, 19 Feb 2001
Source: Canberra Times (Australia)
Copyright: 2001 Canberra Times
Contact:  9 Pirie Street , Fyshwick, Canberra, ACT 2609
Fax: 02 6280 2282
Author: Jennifer Saunders


I AM solicitor for Matthew Massey, who is infamous for his conviction for an
armed robbery on the Fyshwick Commonwealth Bank in November 1999, his
subsequent escape from Belconnen Remand Centre and recapture. He was
sentenced on Friday, 9 February, to 10 years, perhaps 12, in prison.

He asked me to give the CT a copy of a letter, addressed to the judge, which
was reproduced in part in today's CT (10 February) as he wanted the
community to know that there is an explanation other than just plain
badness. He maintains his innocence and will be appealing his conviction and

I wish to use Mr Massey as an illustration of the shocking, relentless toll
heroin is taking on this community. He had been out of jail for eight months
when this robbery was committed. He was on parole for possessing a large
quantity of heroin. He has numerous similar convictions and has been in
custody most of his life since childhood.

He told the judge both his parents were addicted to heroin and he recounts
an extremely violent childhood. He insists he had remained "clean" after his
release on parole; he had begun to play professional football and had a job.
He succumbed, eventually, to his inevitable depression and poor self image
and about two weeks before the robbery began to use heroin again.

He says he was in the process of procuring more heroin when arrested. If he
had been prescribed heroin upon his release from jail or later, when his
willpower weakened, he would not be in Goulburn Jail for the best years of
his life, costing the taxpayer a fortune; he would be at home with his
family, supporting his wife and children, who will now also be a burden on
the taxpayer.

The staff of the bank have never recovered and the court was told that some
have not returned to work and may never work again.

He is only one example; the jails are full of others and most people in the
community have been touched in some way by the ravages of heroin addiction.

Why do we keep listening to the holier-than-thou, middle-class do-gooders
who preach that we would be "sending a message" that heroin use is
acceptable? Of course it is not, and the vast majority of citizens will
never be tempted. It is used, in my considerable experience, to
self-medicate psychic pain and should be considered as valid a prescription
drug as any other. Mr Massey is now prescribed large doses of Largactil, a
notorious sedating drug used in prisons and psychiatric hospitals to control
prisoners. Why is that acceptable and not the heroin that would have
prevented all of this?

Saunders and Company
Solicitors and Attorneys Civic
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