Cashed-up bogans who can spend half their pay on drugs and still lead a respectable life have replaced "gutter-dwelling user-dealers" in drug cases coming before WA courts, a District Court judge has claimed.

Sentencing a mine worker who was earning $170,000 a year when he became a trusted lieutenant for a drug ring, Judge Philip McCann said amphetamines had taken over the "lion's share" of the drug trade from cocaine and heroin.

Judge McCann said the insidious involvement of networks in the drug trade had to be stamped out.

"It matters not whether the people buying it are preppy schoolgirls who want 10 ecstasy tablets for a party or football teams who want an ounce for a party," he said this week. "They're all criminals. They're all involved in the supply of drugs . . . and they're all repatriating prodigious sums of money to criminal gangs in Australia and offshore."

The judge was commenting as he sentenced Aaron Dinesh James John, who had links to the Coffin Cheaters when he was caught in Leeming with $50,000 worth of methylamphetamine and $35,000 cash kept in socks.

"When I first started in this job we saw a lot of gutter-dwelling user-dealers. What we see now are cashed-up bogans who can spend half their pay on drugs and lead a respectable life with the other half," Judge McCann said.

"What I've been trying to do is increase penalties on customers (such as John) who deliberately take part in the industry. They're not addicts, they're not gutter-dwelling bottom feeders. They're intelligent people who earn good money, who commit crimes for cold-blooded reasons."

He said methylamphetamine was "now by far the worst of all the illicit drugs", with heroin and cocaine "barely a blip on the radar" when it came to seizures.

The court was told John, 29, who was jailed for more than four years for "one-off" drug dealing after being convicted by a jury, came from an excellent family, had a good education, high-paying job with Rio Tinto and was not a drug user - but had voluntarily couriered hard drugs to "ingratiate" himself with his associates.

National Drug Research Institute director Steve Allsop said there was no evidence to indicate a rise in drug use among those with a high disposable income.

Gary Wood, mining and energy secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, said mine workers were "easy targets" and rejected suggestions of drug problems in the heavily tested resources industry.

The West Australian

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