Drug trial judge found not to have made error

THE High Court has reserved judgment in the case of two Mafia-linked drug traffickers from Griffith jailed for the importation of a record ecstasy shipment.

Drug kingpin Pasquale Barbaro and his cousin Saverio Zirilli were jailed last year over the shipment of 15 million tablets, or 4.4 tonnes, of ecstasy and 100 kilograms of cocaine.

The drugs were packed inside 3000 tomato tins and shipped from Naples to Melbourne in June 2007.

Police seized the drugs, estimated to be worth $440 million, after Melbourne customs officials X-rayed the tins and discovered "image anomalies".

The men reached an agreement with the prosecution to plead guilty in the Victoria Supreme Court to trafficking and conspiring to traffic ecstasy and attempting to possess cocaine.

The terms of the deal required the men to plead and the Crown to submit a sentence range to the court.

The prosecution planned to advocate a range of 32 to 37 years jail for Barbaro, with a non-parole period of 24 to 28 years.

Zirilli's suggested jail term was to be 21 to 25 years imprisonment, with a minimum of 16 to 19 years.

However, Justice Betty King refused to hear the submission and sentenced Barbaro to life in prison with a 30-year non-parole period and Zirilli to 26 years with an 18-year minimum.

The High Court was asked to consider whether Justice King's refusal to hear the Crown submission was a breach of procedural fairness and a failure to take into account a relevant consideration.

The court found the judge had committed no error of law in refusing to hear the sentencing submissions.

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