Keeping Up Is Hard to Do:
A Trial Judge’s Reading Blog


Cavallo v R [2022] NZCA 276, June 30, 2022, at paragraphs 62 and 63:

Our assessment of the evidence — set out at [34]–[46] above — is as follows:

(a) Methamphetamine and cocaine are similar inasmuch as they are stimulants which can trigger impulsive and psychotic behaviour which may put the user and others at significant risk.

(b) We are satisfied the evidence demonstrates that cocaine powder is somewhat less toxic (in the sense explained by Dr Schep at [45]–[46] above) than methamphetamine.

(c) Assessed overall, we are satisfied the evidence establishes that cocaine powder is somewhat less harmful than methamphetamine, although that will depend on the purity, dosage, consumption method, characteristics of the user and, in particular, the extent and duration of use.81

(d) However, cocaine powder is also capable of being converted into a far more harmful substance, crack cocaine. A comparative harm assessment must therefore allow for that potentiality.

Taking these four conclusions together, we consider that the appellants have established that sentencing for like quantities: (1) should not, in the case of cocaine, exceed sentencing for methamphetamine; and (2) should generally be sentenced slightly below comparable methamphetamine starting points – engaging a discount of around five per cent. The second assessment is however dependent on crack cocaine consumption remaining rare in New Zealand. Further studies – including that noted at [43] – may enable more robust conclusions to be drawn at a later time.