A critically-acclaimed NT artist has been jailed for four months after being busted selling cannabis three times in just over a year.
Central Australian indigenous illustrator Peter Overs – who has received national recognition for his Emu Dreaming Story paintings – was first caught dealing drugs in the remote community of Kintore, about 530 km west of Alice Springs.
The NT Supreme Court heard Overs made more than $600 selling cannabis in the community over a four-day period before he was caught on October 2, 2018.
While on bail for his first offence, Overs was caught again after police searched his Tennant Creek home on December 2, 2019 and found 476.32 grams of the drug – some divided into individual deal bags – along with $518 in cash and electronic scales.
Overs attempted to flush some of the cannabis down his toilet when police arrived to conduct the search.
The 52-year-old was again granted bail only to be caught a third time on February 23 this year.
After receiving a tip off, police pulled over a BMW heading towards Tennant Creek from Alice Springs which was driven by Overs and had two of his sons and a nephew as passengers.
Overs attempted to blame one of his sons when 203 grams of cannabis was discovered in the boot, saying “do you know about this? Is this yours?”, to which his son replied, “Yes, it’s my weed.”
However, Overs later admitted the cannabis was his.
Justice Peter Barr said Overs had previously enjoyed a “very successful career” as an artist at an Alice Springs retail art business.
“You sold your work through that gallery and you also worked at the gallery, doing general duties and as a curator,” he said.
“As you became known nationally, your work started to attract significant prices.
“Things changed for you when the gallery closed, which was about the same time that you suffered back pain to the extent that it affected your ability to paint.”
Overs then moved to Tennant Creek, where his cannabis use increased and he began to sell the drug because he was unable to continue painting because of his back.
Despite the charges, Justice Barr said Overs’ prospects of rehabilitation were good.
“Your aim now is to return to Tennant Creek and resume painting in order to sell your work commercially,” he said.
“You are receiving medical treatment for your back pain and you are optimistic that your health will improve sufficiently to enable to you to resume your former occupation.”
Justice Barr sentenced Overs to 18 months in jail, to be suspended after four months.
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