Vic drug grandad's jail reduced on appeal

Rick Goodman

A rave-loving Melbourne grandfather and drug syndicate leader will spend less time in prison after successfully appealing against his jail sentence.

John McKenzie, 58, was jailed for 20 years in mid-2017 for being the leader of a syndicate that imported liquid MDMA in wine bottles from Germany and trafficked other party drugs.

But he launched an appeal, claiming the sentence was too heavy, and the Victorian Court of Appeal agreed, re-sentencing him to 18 years' jail on Thursday.

McKenzie was arrested in December 2015 after a police investigation into the syndicate, involving telephone intercepts and other surveillance methods.

A plethora of party drugs was uncovered when police searched his home, a second property, a storage unit and several post office boxes.

Detectives found wine bottles that had been imported from Germany and had contained at least four kilograms of liquid ecstasy.

Various quantities of LSD, cocaine, DMT, ketamine, mescaline, "Nexus", "Smiles" and other hallucinogenic drugs were also found.

The total value of all the drugs topped $1 million, and more than $175,000 cash was also found.

"(He) used mobile phones, face-to-face meetings and internet-based encrypted communication applications to traffic drugs, and to conceal the operations," the Court of Appeal judgment said.

McKenzie had an affluent upbringing and graduated from the elite Scotch College but his privileged life was "marred" by heroin use at an early age, the judgment said.

He was living at Box Hill at the time and owned a company that sold and rented canvas tents, sometimes to music festivals.

McKenzie reportedly used to venture to all-night rave parties in far flung countries in Asia, Europe and Africa, and has done time in a Thailand jail.

But he's been a model inmate during his time in custody and has become a "peer educator", the appeal judges said.

McKenzie claimed his original 20-year sentence was manifestly excessive, and the sentencing judge had breached the sentencing principle of "totality".

That principle seeks to ensure a criminal does not get an unfair total term when multiple prison sentences for different charges are added up.

The Court of Appeal judges agreed that the sentencing judge had erred slightly.

They re-sentenced McKenzie to 18 years in jail, ordering him to serve at least 14 years before being eligible for parole.