FORMER Australian Idol winner and Bendigo woman Kate DeAraugo has avoided conviction after pleading guilty to possessing ice, drug driving and weapons offences.
In placing her on a community corrections order, a Bendigo magistrate told DeAraugo, 32, she could expect “a long period in custody” if she continued to commit drug-related offences.
DeAraugo, of Strathdale, pleaded guilty in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court on Friday to eight charges. A charge of drug trafficking was struck out.
DeAraugo was pulled over by police on St Georges Road in Shepparton just before 2am on June 15, and was unable to produce her driver’s licence because she did not have it in her possession.
She tested positive to methylamphetamine, known as ice.
A search of her car uncovered 0.4 grams of methamphetamine, a tomahawk axe and a large knife.
DeAraugo told police she had not cleaned the car for a while and knew there were used drug bags, syringes and a knife “in there somewhere”.
She also claimed she used the tomahawk axe to chop wood and was unaware that it was a considered a controlled weapon.
She admitted to police she had been “a scattered person for the last couple of days” and had been an on-and-off drug addict for 10 years.
DeAraugo was released on bail, but police spotted her at BP Kyabram on July 24 outside of her curfew hours. She told police she was in the area to collect her car from her ex-partner.
On September 26 – one week before her last court appearance in Bendigo – DeAraugo was pulled over by police on Etty Street in Castlemaine.
Police spotted the handle of a knife in a driver’s side door compartment, which DeAraugo claimed was “an antique”, that she “loves antiques” and that it had sentimental value.
Police found two small snaplock bags of ice in DeAraugo’s handbag. She admitted to using between half a gram and one gram of ice two days earlier.
Defence counsel Luke Docherty said DeAraugo’s drug issues started while she was working in the entertainment industry 10 years ago.
DeAraugo won Australian Idol in 2005 before she became a part of the Young Divas group and released a number of solo singles.
Mr Docherty said DeAraugo had attempted to get help for her drug problems, but remained in the early stages of her rehabilitation.
“It started out in the industry as a fun sort of thing,” he said.
“It got to the point now where her life has steadily declined, and associated more and more with unsocial peers.
“They are… lower level sorts of offences. Possession and use reflects her addiction.”
Mr Docherty also said the “significant amount of media interest” in the matter had been detrimental to DeAraugo’s rehabilitation.
“When it was first splashed across tabloids that she was in trouble… that’s when her mental health and drug use deteriorated more so,” he said.
Mr Docherty suggested she could be placed on an adjourned undertaking, but Prosecutor Sergeant Mark Snell said that sentence “would seem a little low” and a community corrections order would be more appropriate.
Magistrate Michael King said it was concerning that DeAraugo had been caught drug driving twice in a year, and she was placing other road users at risk.
“You must be aware of the consequences, having been dealt with once on this sort of charge,” he said.
“It’s also a concern that, on several occasions, you were found with weapons. I accept there were explanations given, but the combination of drugs and weapons is not a good one.
“You’re a young woman, you’ve got your life ahead of you and the potential to address these issues and stop this path you’ve started on.
“Continuing use of drugs can lead to decades of dysfunction and misery for yourself and your family.
“You’ve had the ability to achieve great things in your life so far. Your ability and motivation can be used to positively address your drug issues.”
DeAraugo was placed on a 12-month community corrections order without conviction.
Her licence was disqualified for the minimum of six months.