Valley man given chance to rebuild his life

A MAN police busted with a stash of cannabis and drug utensils has been handed a probation sentence so he can continue rebuilding his life after a number of setbacks.

The Toowoomba District Court was yesterday told Andrew James Balke, 36, had rebuilt his life on a number of occasions, not least of which was after the devastating floods that destroyed the Laidley resident's homes twice in early 2011 and late 2013.

But the stresses from those pressures led him to suffer depression which turned to drug abuse and ultimately saw him charged with drug supply, possession and possessing drug utensils in August last year.

Balke yesterday pleaded guilty to the charges in the District Court.

Crown prosecutor Charles Martin told the court a phone was found in Balke's possession on August 18 which Balke readily admitted to police was his.

A single text message among hundreds on the phone related to drugs in which Balke had traded a stash of methamphetamines for 7g of cannabis.

Balke's legal counsel argued against the phone being forfeited to the Crown on the basis that particular text message was the only message on the phone that related to drugs.

The phone also held hundreds of photos of Balke's family and restored engines on which he had worked as a hobby.

The court heard Balke left school in Year 11 for a diesel mechanic apprenticeship, eventually seeing him set up his own business in the industry.

It soon ran into financial trouble including owing $20,000 to the Australian Tax Office.

With his mother's help, that debt was repaid and Balke took up work in the mines in 2010 before moving back to Laidley shortly before the first of two devastating floods after Christmas that year.

His family lost everything, the court heard, and after rebuilding their homes endured the same loss in 2013.

Judge Kiernan Dorney sentenced Balke to two years probation, ordering him to continue with counselling and subjected him to strict orders.

Convictions were recorded.

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