Synthetics-for-supply charge admitted

A 21-year-old woman has admitted possession for supply of synthetic drugs – but the charge does not allege the substance was responsible for a spate of hospital admissions and deaths.

Lani Hawkins, of Phillipstown, was arrested in early October at a time when Christchurch health services were seeing what they called a “concerning influx in serious health complications relating to people taking psychoactive substances”.

Hawkins has been held in custody since her arrest on October 5. She pleaded not guilty and elected a judge-alone trial on October 11, but changed her plea at the Christchurch District Court today and admitted the charge.

It states that she possessed a non-approved psychoactive substance with intent to supply it to other people.

Defence counsel Rachel Wood said after the hearing before Judge Craig Thompson: “Although the police have referred to the synthetic drug situation in the summary of facts, they have not charged her with any offence relating to the provision of the substance that has caused the admissions to hospital.”

The judge remanded Hawkins in custody to January 16 for sentence. He ordered a pre-sentence report with an assessment for her suitability for a home detention sentence.

Hawkins also admitted a breach of a sentence of supervision.

Police said that over a two-week period, 19 people had been admitted to Christchurch Hospital with “severe synthetic toxicity”, and two remained in intensive care when the summary of facts was written.

Symptoms included hallucinations, seizures, aggression, paranoia, anxiety, and overheating.

At the same time, another four people were suspected to have died from psychoactive substance consumption and many more deaths were being investigated with consumption of the substance as the suspected cause.

About 9pm on October 4, police executed a search warrant on Hawkins’ address in Phillipstown, while she was at home.

They found 2.24g of synthetic cannabis, $145 in cash, and small sealable plastic bags. Hawkins admitted it was hers, but said it was for personal use.

The police want an order to destroy all the drug-related items and seizure of the cash.