Sentencing – starting point – Zhang v R band five – 10 years to life imprisonment starting point – maximum penalty of life imprisonment imposed under Sentencing Act 2002, s 8(c) – minimum period of imprisonment not permitted unless in the context of murder – Parole Act 2002, s 84 – automatic non-parole period of 10 years
R v Valent  NZHC 1432 per Fitzgerald J.
Note: A full list of the charge and the starting point for each charge are provided in a schedule to the sentencing.
Xavier Valent appeared for sentencing after being found guilty of 86 charges spanning the importing, manufacturing, possession for supply, and supply of significant quantities of predominantly methamphetamine, but also cocaine, MDMA and ephedrine.
The first set of charges arose from Operation Collision, where Valent was overseeing the importation of significant quantities of ephedrine. The balance of the offending arose from Operation Mystic, under which he led a drug importation and distribution syndicate.
Fitzgerald J said the quantity of drugs extended to at least 200 kilograms, thereby placing Valent within band five of Zhang v R, which imposes a starting point of 10 years’ imprisonment to life imprisonment.
Valent was also seen to meet the indicia of a “leading” participant in commercial drug offending, as explained in Zhang and updated in Berkland v R. He would often send daily lists with strict instructions on how syndicate members were required to run operations and would even subject his members to polygraph testing if they were suspected of stealing drugs or cash.
Fitzgerald J then considered s 8(c) of the Sentencing Act 2002, which states the court must impose the maximum penalty for an offence if the offending is “within the most serious cases for which that penalty is prescribed”.
After considering relevant authorities, as well as the sentencing notes for Valent’s co-offenders, Fitzgerald J concluded there was “no doubt” Valent’s offending fell within the most serious cases. As such, a starting point of life imprisonment was imposed.
Fitzgerald J then noted an uplift would have been imposed for previous convictions in relation to serious drug offending had a determinate sentence been imposed.
Personal mitigating factors were considered to determine whether stepping back from a sentence of life imprisonment was appropriate.
A s 27 cultural report noted Valent was estranged from his father and consequently felt unsettled and frustrated. However, Fitzgerald J was not satisfied this background provided a sufficiently causative contribution to Valent’s offending to warrant a step back.
Fitzgerald J said addiction played no role in Valent’s offending and he demonstrated limited insight and remorse.
The court decided it did not have the power to impose a minimum period of imprisonment on a life sentence, other than for murder. Instead, a non-parole period of 10 years was imposed, pursuant to s 84 of the Parole Act 2002.
Held: Valent was sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 10 years.