27 February 2023

'You have thrown your reputation away,' magistrate tells former mayor sentenced on drugs charges

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Eurobodalla Shire Council Mayor Liz Innes.

Former Eurobodalla Shire Council mayor Liz Innes was found guilty of possessing 76 marijuana plants. Photo: Supplied.

Former Eurobodalla mayor Liz Innes has been fined $4000 and sentenced to two years of community service after being found guilty of possessing 76 marijuana plants with a street value of up to $250,000. She appeared in the Batemans Bay court today (27 February) for sentencing.

Ms Innes, 54, was charged earlier this month after police officers enquiring about another matter in the area drove into her Runnyford property and found a large number of plants being cultivated around the house and garden.

Police said Ms Innes admitted to owning the plants, which ranged from small seedlings to around 30 cm in height and were carefully tended.

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A large number of family members and supporters were present in court when Ms Innes appeared for sentencing, represented by Keeley Boom. The court heard there had been significant substance abuse issues within her family. Ms Innes had suffered trauma of the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires where she fought to save her home from destruction while leading the community as mayor.

Ms Innes had been formally diagnosed with anxiety and depression following the fires. The economic and social impact of COVID and the breakdown of her marriage at the same time were also noted.

Criticism from the local community asking where the mayor was during the recovery period had deeply affected her. Ms Innes had been “at breaking point”, despite being proud of her achievements as mayor, including the new Bay Bridge and other significant local infrastructure.

After resigning as mayor, Ms Innes had “let the emotional load out” following an “extremely stressful period”. She had tried counselling during this period.

A family member was experiencing significant addiction to cannabis at a time when Ms Innes was unemployed, and her mother had also used CBD oil for pain relief.

At this time, a friend in Canberra gave Ms Innes a bag of marijuana seeds. She was “horrified” at how many germinated in the garden and the court heard she had never had any intention of selling the plants.

Ms Innes continues to suffer social anxiety and had been “drained” by the end of her marriage. Her youngest child was at the property when police arrived, and Ms Innes was aware of bringing “great shame on her entire family” through her arrest.

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As the Eurobodalla’s second female mayor, she was conscious of being a role model for young women in the community and was aware she had let everybody down by her actions. Ms Innes promised the court she would abstain from smoking marijuana and now intends to focus on her rural home and property to generate income.

Three references were presented, including from former Eurobodalla Council general manager Dr Catherine Dale.

Magistrate Doug Dick acknowledged the large contingent supporting Ms Innes and told the defendant, “you have let them all down. You have thrown away your reputation, not anyone else”.

He imposed a $4000 fine and a two-year community corrections order, including conditions that Ms Innes abstain from using illicit drugs and enter a drug and alcohol treatment program and a mental health program. She is required to attend the Batemans Bay police station to record a photograph and her fingerprints.

Additional reporting by Alex Rea.

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