Cairns Courthouse. Picture: Brendan Radke.
Cairns Courthouse. Picture: Brendan Radke.

Why man handed Cairns’ biggest drug jail sentence walked free

A MAN handed one of the most significant drug-related jail sentences in Cairns is now free after his conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal.

Paul Ma was facing 12 years imprisonment, which automatically put him in the category of a serious violent offender meaning he must serve at least 80 per cent of the term.

He was looking at nine and a half years behind bars before he could apply for parole.

It was one of the longest dealt out to Far Northern drug offenders, eclipsing both the substantial 11-year term given to drug syndicate matriarch Natalie De Jong in December last year and decade for Cairns-based drug boss Ian Reginald More in 2014.

In fact, it matched the manslaughter penalty for the Cape York man who deliberately drove into a Kowanyama home filled with mourners and killing a woman.

A jury had found Mr Ma guilty of trafficking ice in the Cairns region following a five-day trial earlier this year.

His lawyers argued against the verdict in the Court of Appeal on Tuesday with the decision handed down that afternoon - the conviction and sentence were reversed and substituted for an acquittal.

Mr Ma was released the same day.

His solicitor Aaron Mansia, of Philip Bovey and Company Lawyers, said the appeal was based on an argument that convicting him of trafficking was "unsafe because no reasonable jury, properly instructed, could have excluded beyond reasonable doubt all reasonable hypotheses consistent with his innocence".

Mr Ma, who's from Sydney, had been at a Cairns house when it was raided by police and a large amount of drugs was found.

"We felt that there were a number of alternate explanations for the large quantity of drugs found in someone else's house which should have been sufficient for a not-guilty verdict at trial," Mr Mansia said.

"The outcome of the appeal reflects that it couldn't be excluded that in fact someone else was in possession of the drugs…

"It is an excellent result for Mr Ma, who is extremely happy to have been released."