Chris Ison

Boatie’s lucky break after Magistrate’s ‘soft moment’

IT WAS Ryan James Cowley's lucky day when he appeared in Rockhampton Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

He pleaded guilty to driving a vessel with drugs present in his saliva, but thanks to a "soft moment" from Magistrate Michael O'Driscoll, left court with his boat licence.

The court heard Yeppoon Water Police had been patrolling Swain Reefs on July 2, 2014, when they tested Cowley for drugs and alcohol at 12.08pm.

Police prosecutor Clancy Fox said Cowley had been in a motorised dory attached to commercial fishing vessel the Koo-de-cue at the time.

Cowley gave a negative breath test reading for alcohol, but tested positive for drugs. He told police he had smoked a cannabis joint.

But defence solicitor Alan Grant said Cowley had not used drugs for over 24 hours before the test.

Mr Grant said Cowley was a professional fisherman who needed a boat licence to work. He said a second person in the boat charged with the same offence had not been disqualified when they appeared before Mr O'Driscoll recently.

After checking court records, Mr O'Driscoll said he would follow that precedent, but "must have been at a soft moment" when sentencing the other person. Cowley was convicted and fined $750, but was not disqualified from operating a boat.

Like random roadside tests, boat skippers can be pulled over by Queensland police officers for a random saliva test to detect any presence of illegal drugs.


There is zero tolerance for operating a boat under the influence of illegal drugs. If you test positive your licence will be suspended for 24 hours.

A magistrate may disqualify a boat skipper with a positive reading from operating a vessel for up to six months, impose a fine up to $3187 or a term of imprisonment of up to nine months.

People in court

Rockhampton Magistrates Court figures 2013-14

5542 adult defendants on 10,213 charges

399 adult defendants on 835 charges

Rockhampton Magistrates Court figures 2012-13

5666 adult defendants on 10,397 charges

380 adult defendants on 982 charges

- Magistrates Courts of Queensland annual report 2012-13, 2013-14

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