THE battle against the drug ice has been dealt a significant blow.
At a time when demand for the drug is skyrocketing, a woman has been found not guilty of murdering a man who was killed when a meth lab exploded inside her house in Ryde.
The charge against Irene Lin was a test case for whether those accused of running dangerous meth labs — often from inside suburban homes — could be held responsible for murdering a person who was killed if the lab exploded.
It failed on December 3 when Justice Peter Hamill SC directed a jury in the NSW Supreme Court to find Lin not guilty of murder and manslaughter of Zhi Min Lan.
Lan died when the drug lab inside the suburban home on Quarry Rd exploded on January 4, 2013.
Justice Hamill told the court that police and fire investigators at the scene did not establish what caused the drug lab to blow up.
This meant it could not be ruled out that Lan killed himself when cooking the drugs, Lin’s lawyers Leo Premutico and Richard Pontello submitted to the court.
A legal source said it was the wrong case for the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions to pursue a murder case on because it lacked the necessary evidence for a conviction.
Crown prosecutor Richard Herps told the court the DPP would appeal.
The murder case was believed to be among the first in Australian history with the court being told similar cases could only be found in the US.
Lin, a nanny and part-time restaurant cleaner, was jailed for at least seven and a half years on Thursday for manufacturing 6.7kg of methamphetamine inside the poorly ventilated house and possessing guns, including a Tech 9 sub-machine gun..
She was charged with murder after Lan was burnt to death when an explosion occurred in the bathroom about 4.40am. It got out of control when they tried to douse it with a mattress.
Police tried to enter the burning house but Lin “immediately rushed to the front door saying ‘no, no, no’ and attempted to close the door”, preventing them from getting to Lam, who was naked and crawling across the floor, the court heard.
Inside, police found an explosive combination of chemicals that were being used without any safety precautions or ventilation.
Prosecutors charged Lin with constructive murder, meaning they did not have to prove she intended to kill Lan, inflict grievous bodily harm or act with reckless indifference.
If the charge hadn’t failed, Lin could have been held responsible for Lan’s death because he died in the act of committing a crime with Lin that carries a maximum jail term of 25 years or more.
In this case, the crime was manufacturing a commercial quantity of illegal drugs.
Lin’s lawyers successfully argued she should be found not guilty of murder or and manslaughter.
Justice Hamill told the court it could not be ruled out that Lan killed himself by causing the explosion.
He told the court Lan could not be guilty of his own murder and this meant Lin would not be guilty either.
If Lan did kill himself, Lin may not have foreseen the possibility he could be killed, Justice Hamill told the court.
The judge told the court the charge was not helped by police and fire investigators not establishing who caused the explosion, which started from a gas bottle and burner in the bathroom.
Justice Hamill said the situation “could have been avoided with a better investigation”.
“…The fact is the failure to test the items in the bathroom are a remarkable and significant oversight on the part of the investigators,” he told the court.
Mr Herps told the court the murder case was “an unusual sort of charge”, which Justice Hamill said was “a masterpiece of understatement”.
According to the latest Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research statistics, amphetamine detections by police had risen by 26 per cent over the last quarter.
NSW police figures showed the drug squad had uncovered 88 illegal labs in 2014, 115 in 2013, 98 in 2012, 93 in 2011 and 96 in 2010.