NICK Taylor spent three months and 10 days behind bars in Bali’s notorious Kerobokan prison. But it could easily have been so much worse.
It was mid-2007 and Mr Taylor, then 41, was in Bali holidaying with friends and DJing at Double Six, Bali’s biggest nightclub, which was celebrating its 20th anniversary with an all-night party.
Taylor’s set began at 1am — by noon the next day he was still going, this time at a poolside after-party. Like most of the revellers, he was fuelled by drugs and when the party was busted by police they found 0.3 grams of MDMA in his pocket.
Suddenly, he was facing a frightening scenario. Locked up in the same jail that was home to Schapelle Corby and the Bali Nine, he was staring down the barrel of a major sentence.
But then along came an opportunity.
Under Indonesian drug laws, possession of most drugs carries a maximum sentence of 10 years — and if offenders claim to be addicted they can receive much lighter penalties.
Writing in the new book Abroad, Broke and Busted, Mr Taylor reveals for the first time the deals he made that ensured he was back at home in Byron Bay, NSW, a little more than three months after being locked away.
The book is a collection of travellers’ stories compiled by Matt Towner about the good, the bad, the ugly — and the outright dangerous — of travelling.
It chronicles 14 travellers from Byron Bay and across Australia and how they managed to beat whatever calamity they encountered, whether it was jail in a developing world country or nearly dying in the jungle.
Mr Taylor’s account includes the moment he realises he needs to convince authorities he was an addict — the only problem was MDMA wasn’t as convincing as cocaine to “prove addiction in court”.
“We’d paid the Balinese police forensics lab to discover that the MDMA I’d been busted with actually tested positive for cocaine, as this would be a more convincing substance to prove addiction to in court.”
What he longed for was to be charged under Article 88, which is the Indonesian law for failing to report your drug addiction to authorities. Mr Taylor used money donated by family and friends to “negotiate” a three-month sentence for himself with the prosecutor and judges who were trying his case.
He thought it was all settled. And then came the bombshell via his Indonesian lawyer.
“As we sat with my resourceful girlfriend on the blistering tiled floor of the crowded visitor’s courtyard, he’d told me that authorities were now demanding another 10 grand — which I didn’t have — or they couldn’t guarantee that I’d be charged under Article 88.”
Under Article 88 the maximum sentence was six months. But if he was charged as a user with possession of 0.3 grams of cocaine he could be slapped with a 10-year jail term.
“Article 88 doesn’t come cheap, and none of the genuine drug addicts within Kerobokan have the resources to afford it.”
Mr Taylor writes in Abroad, Broke and Busted, he was never more acutely aware of the greed and “crass corruption” of the Balinese judicial system that at that time. “As much as it seems to me that I’m embroiled in a loaded game, thanks to my incredible support network it’s a game that I’m in the privileged position of being able to play.”
And it paid off.
The judges accepted his addiction story. An AAP report from the time said Mr Taylor was passive as he sat in the witness chair, his head bowed as the judges read out their verdict.
His girlfriend, who previously testified that Mr Taylor was treated for drug addiction in Australia, watched from the public gallery.
Judge I Nyoman Gede Wirya told the court that while Mr Taylor’s crime contributed to Indonesia’s drug trade and hurt government efforts to fight drug abuse, he had been honest and remorseful during his trial.
“He was polite and frankly admitted his crime, he felt sorry and promised not to do it again. He intends to seek medical treatment for his addiction after he has served his punishment, and he has never been in jail before,” Judge Wirya said.
He was sentenced to the shorter term and eventually flew back to Byron Bay to get on with his life. One of the things that had changed for him though was his love of being a DJ.
He wrote how, two weeks after his release, friends organised a charity gig to help him pay off his legal debts.
He planned to finish his set with Jailbreak, because he knew even then his “heart just isn’t in it anymore”.
Andrew Chan wrote this letter in the hope that it reaches high school students and that his story will make them think more about their lives and the decision they make.