The man who supplied drugs to three teenagers, including the 17-year old who died at Perth Big Day Out in 2009, has pleaded guilty to his charges and awaits sentencing.

As reported in The Music Network’s Industrial Strength column, Patrick William Coetzer, the man who supplied Gemma Thoms, the underage punter who died from an ecstasy overdose four years ago, has pleaded guilty with Judge Ronald Birmingham quoted as saying “the prospect of imprisonment looms large.”

The 17-year-old Gemma Thoms attended the Perth Big Day Out festival in 2009. She panicked in the line for entry after seeing police and sniffer dogs, fearing she’d be caught and charged for possession. The teen swallowed the three tablets she had in her possession and later collapsed at the festival, she was hospitalised and died the next day.

According to The West Australian, the 25-year-old Coetzer has pleaded guilty to four counts of supplying drugs to teenagers, including Thoms, who was the ex-girlfriend of the casual drug dealer. He is facing a $10,000 fine or a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment.

Judge Birmingham has likened the supply of drugs to supplying someone with poison, telling the court that “the supply of MDMA to others in the community is a very, very serious offence.” …Coetzer has pleaded guilty to four counts of supplying drugs to teenagers, including Thoms, who was the ex-girlfriend of the casual drug dealer.

During the court sessions, Coetzer’s defence lawyer Justine Fisher said her client was a part of a “culture of recreational weekend use.” His actions were in accordance with the common belief among young people that they are “bulletproof” and that Coetzer didn’t think about the consequences of illicit drug use until it was too late.

The court heard how Coetzer and Miss Thoms had corresponded before the festival, with a text message stating he could get her as “many biccies” as she wanted, with the accused charged with supplying her with between five and 10 pills.

Coetzer has been released on bail, which included a $10,000 personal undertaking and a $10,000 surety. He is expected back in court for sentencing on May 9th.

Ms Fisher argued Coetzer was not the “go-to person” for drugs, however was only involved “in low level distribution,” and claimed that Thoms’ death was a wake-up-call for the defendant. “This tragedy, what happened to one of his friends, has caused him to massively reassess his life,” she said.

Thoms’ death also led to a push for an inquest into the health and safety aspects of large music festivals. The coroner, Dominic Mulligan, ruled that Thoms’ death was the result of an accident, but that services were “inadequate” to deal with her major medical emergency, especially because first aid volunteers who treated the 17-year-old were unable to identify her conditions and symptoms. “the supply of MDMA to others in the community is a very, very serious offence.” – Judge Ronald Birmingham

After arriving at the Perth Big Day Out and feeling ill upon swallowing the three ecstasy pills at the gate, Thoms initially lied to paramedics, stating that she was 18 years old and feeling unwell because she had taken ‘drexi’ (re: dexedrine). After she was allowed to go back into the 40+ degree day, unfortunately she continued to worsen until she was taken to the hospital with convulsions and a body temperature of 43C.

Coroner Dominic Mulligan reported that her organs were “cooked” by the time she got to the hospital. “Ms Thoms did not know that after she swallowed the third tablet she had just consumed a fatal quantity of ecstasy,” said Mr Mulligan, “which in the context of a very hot day, would inexorably lead to her death unless she was extremely lucky.”

Thoms’ mother, Peta Davies, took comfort in the understanding that festival services were being improved as a result of the tragedy. “The fact that the Coroner said it was inadequate in 2009 when Gem was there and the massive improvements that have been made since with St Johns and also the Big Day Out… they made such a big difference I’m really really happy about it,” she said.

Mrs Davies went on to say “I’m really proud of her (Gemma). I love her. She made a terrible mistake but I couldn’t ask for anything better to come out of this situation.”

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