A Sunshine Coast psychologist who specialises in treating children has avoided time behind bars after pleading guilty to using the dark web to buy drugs to feed her long-term opioid addiction.
Natasha Rosalie Hutchison’s COVID face mask covered her reaction to sentencing yesterday, however her shoulders shook as Magistrate Haydn Stjernqvist revealed she would not be going to prison.
The Mooloolaba woman cut an unusual silhouette in the Maroochydore Magistrate’s Court, wearing black velvet sweatpants, a grey long-sleeved sweatshirt, and slip-on heels to answer her guilty plea to 29 charges including fraud and 22 counts of possessing drugs.
Solicitor Patrick Meehan told the court his client was still a registered psychologist who had “stepped away” from practising psychology since her offences.
“She does not intend to return to practice in the short term,” Mr Meehan said.
“She does hope to in the long term as she does like the work of being a psychologist and helping people.”
The court heard a person must be deemed to be a “fit and proper person” to be registered as a psychologist.
Mr Meehan said his client intended to disclose the court proceedings when it came time to re-register as a psychologist but a conviction would act as a “barrier” to her and affect her financially if it was refused.
Police prosecutor Mark Burrell said the 37-year-old forged documents to open a post office box under another name to receive deliveries of drugs including morphine, diazepam, ketamine, methadone, alprazolam (xanax), and oxycodone.
He pointed out Hutchison faced maximum penalties for some of her drug charges of up to 15 years.
Mr Burrell said Hutchison’s offending “demonstrates significant planning and sophistication”.
“[She used] another person’s details to obtain telecommunication and postal services to obtain packages containing quantities of restricted drugs,” he said.
“In order to do this, she has had to forge an authorisation document including the signature on the document using a computer.
“It was noted by Australia Post 14 parcels were received to that parcel locker where the fraudulent name was used.”
He said during searches of Hutchison’s home and business addresses a mobile phone was found hidden in her bra and a computer that showed she had used Bitcoin to buy the restricted drugs.
Mr Meehan said his client had no criminal history and had completed rehabilitation for a long-standing opioid addiction in the Gold Coast since being arrested last year.
He submitted Hutchison became addicted to painkillers stemming from old injuries in New Zealand including a bulged spine disc, an ankle injury, and a caesarean.
Mr Meehan tendered references from two of Hutchison’s relatives including one from her mother who had flown from New Zealand to support her daughter in the courtroom.
Magistrate Stjernqvist cited rehabilitation and Hutchison’s lack of criminal history when he sentenced her to three years’ probation, $1,000 fine, and with no conviction recorded.
He warned Hutchison against further offending of dishonesty, including “lying to people about the process here today” when she applied for jobs in the future.
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