A COUNTY Court judge was guarded on the prospects of an ice trafficker who bailed up, beat and shot a drug debtor in a house over several hours.
Quang Dang, 28, pleaded guilty to trafficking, possessing an unregistered handgun and recklessly causing injury in the County Court of Victoria.
On 15 April, Judge Jeanette Morrish described how Dang and his partner Jessica Truong lured the male client to their Lalor house about 5pm on 4 June 2014.
When the matter of the $25,000 debt was raised, Dang produced a small handgun.
His debtor said he couldn’t pay because police had recently raided his home.
An enraged Dang struck him to the head with the gun and over several hours, beat him and demanded money.
Twice Dang fired his gun into a wall behind the victim, accusing him of being a police informer.
He fired again. The bullet grazed the client’s shin, which then bled copiously.
The victim first sought antiseptic and bandages for his wound before admitting himself to Western Hospital.
Judge Morrish said Dang may have meant only to fire the gun in the victim’s direction to “scare” him but there was an “obvious risk of harm”.
“One can only imagine the fear” suffered by the debtor, who declined to make a victim impact statement, she said.
The weapon was “part and parcel of being in the drug world”, according to Dang’s lawyer.
On Dang’s arrest six days after the shooting, police seized 824.5 grams of ice, $5485 cash and drug paraphernalia from his home and from a white Mercedes he had been seen driving.
A 0.22-calibre handgun and rounds of ammunition were also found.
Dang and Truong remained mute during their police interviews. Dang later claimed he was sleep-deprived and drug-affected at the time of the incident.
The accused had heavily used drugs such as cannabis, heroin and ice, as well as trafficked them for much of his adult life, the court heard.
The judge noted Dang’s drug-dealing not only funded his ice addiction but his lifestyle.
A psychologist submitted that an “immature” Dang desired a drug-free life. During his 675-day remand awaiting trial, Dang was treated with methadone and had become physically and mentally healthier.
“Though there’s been some progress,” Judge Morrish said. “It’s premature to say your prospects (of rehabilitation) are good.”
Dang’s parents stated their son had been a happy, kind-hearted child who gained impressive school marks – though not for English.
The court was told Dang, while growing up, had been shaped by family violence and racial bullying.
Dang recently told a psychologist he had got in with the wrong crowd at high school to protect himself from the bullying.
He started using illicit drugs for self-medication in Year 9. Dang claimed associates and bullies forced him to use and test drugs under the threat of harm to his family.
Judge Morrish noted Dang’s drug use seemed to increase after he was hospitalised due to an assault in 2006. Around the same time, he fronted his first heroin trafficking charges.
The judge declined a community corrections order. Dang had been assessed as suitable by Corrections officers, but a high risk of re-offending due to his past defiance of treatment-based orders.
Judge Morrish said there was a need to deter Dang from similar offending and to protect the community. On the other hand, she noted he had endured “onerous” 23-hour-a-day lockdowns while in remand for nearly two years.
Dang was jailed for six years and three months, but eligible for parole after three-and-a-half years. Taking into account time already served in remand, Dang’s earliest release would be December 2017.
Co-offender Truong was jailed for four months for trafficking, having played no part in the violence.