A man smokes marijuana during a rally for the legalization of marijuana in Toronto, April 20, 2010.
A man smokes marijuana during a rally for the legalization of marijuana in Toronto, April 20, 2010. Reuters/Mark Blinch

Queensland resident Joshua Baker has been spared jail in Indonesia. He was facing up to 15 years behind bars for bringing drugs into the country, but he will instead spend less than a year in a rehabilitation centre in Bali.

In October, Baker was held by Bali police after he allegedly tried to bring marijuana and antidepressant pills in the country. Flying from Thailand, he was stopped by customs in Bali when his baggage was scanned. He was found to be carrying 28 grams of marijuana mixed with tobacco and 37 Diazepam antidepressant pills.

The 33-year-old Mt Isa native did not have a prescription for the pills. He escaped police custody after his arrest but was captured about 10 hours later at a hotel in Kuta. His defence team said he suffered from mental health problems. The court heard that he used the cannabis, which he bought from a man at a bar in Cambodia, to self-medicate.

Upon sentencing Baker, the three-judge panel at the Denpasar court said the Australian had damaged Bali’s reputation as a tourist destination and had undermined the country’s efforts to combat narcotics. Head judge I Wayan Kawisada said the accused’s actions contradicted the government’s program to eradicate drugs.

However, Kawisada also lessened the sentence from a maximum of 15 years to less than a year in rehab. He said that Baker had shown remorse during the trial, adding that the tourist was “still young” and had psychiatric problems. Kawisada also noted that the accused was polite during court proceedings and had no prior convictions. The panel reportedly disagreed with the prosecutor’s recommendation that Baker is jailed for one year as the defendant needed rehabilitation instead.

“He was proven to not be part of drug network or a dealer, that he was a user because of the mental and health problems,” Kawasida was quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald as saying. “Based on doctors and medical records, overseas and in Indonesia, [the court found] that Joshua suffers addictive bipolar that requires him to be medicated and that he has used narcotics since he was 11 years old.”

The judges ordered him to attend 10 months of rehabilitation at the Kita drug treatment facility in Denpasar, around less than four months the time he had already served in jail. Baker can only leave the country and return to Australia in about six months.