From the Courts
January 19, 2007
Grenadian sea Captain gets 58 months in prison

There continues to be an inflow of illegal immigrants who come to these shores and break the laws. This week alone, two non-nationals were arrested and charged with committing offences here.

The latest case was that of Benedict McLawrence, a 55 year-old Sea Captain of Carriacou, Grenada who will serve 58 months in jail for firearm, ammunition, cocaine and marijuana possession.{{more}}

Mc Lawrence was caught with 10,896 grams (24lbs) of cocaine and 1,016 grams of cannabis. He was also charged with having a .25 semi-automatic pistol in his possession without declaring it at customs. Mc Lawrence received 13 months for the firearm, four months for the four rounds of ammunition, a $2000 fine for the marijuana and 31 months for the cocaine possession.

On Tuesday at the Serious Offences Court, the court heard that Mc Lawrence set sail on September 10 last year with four other Grenadians bound for St Martin to purchase goods. Unfortunately, the boat experienced problems and docked at the Canouan port.

The prosecution led evidence that Mc Lawrence never checked in with immigration officials and did not declare the gun. Station Sergeant Nigel Butcher said that the vessel had been under heavy surveillance by members of the local Coast Guard and the Narcotics Unit who in a joint operation, executed a search warrant on the vessel.

While searching Mc Lawrence’s cabin, officers discovered parcels with the drugs, while the gun was found on a shelf.

Mc Lawrence, who was jointly charged with Kenroy Mc Lawrence, 26, Hubert Mc Lawrence, 19, Rex Cummings, 29, Nathaniel John, 19 and lone Vincentian, Everton Adams, a labourer of Belair, admitted that the gun was his and that it had been issued to him while he was a Fleet Captain in the Coast Guard in Grenada. He said that he had ownership of the weapon after being transferred from the Coast Guard and that it was not fired since 1992.

The other men in the case were acquitted of the charges last Thursday because of insufficient evidence.

Mc Lawrence said that everyone on the ship had access to his cabin and denied ownership of the drugs. He said that he changed his plea to guilty because two of his nephews were with him and that he did not want them to spend any more time in prison. He said that one officer told him to own the drugs and ask the magistrate to impose a small fine on him. He said while in police custody, he had been beaten repeatedly.

An animated Defense Attorney Arthur Williams argued that his client was in a state of shock when the officers found the drugs and asked for a glass of water and a seat. To Williams, this action alone showed that the defendant did not know anything about the drugs and he was indeed innocent. He even went as far as chiding Sergeant 593 Scott for poor investigation into the matter. “Do you have a heart? You should have done a better job,” Williams said.

The veteran attorney said that it is quite normal for every boat to have a gun and argued the point that you do not have to declare a gun on a boat.

Station Sergeant Butcher Strongly opposed Counsel’s argument that it is legal for someone to have a gun on a boat without a licence. Butcher noted that there was overwhelming evidence to support the charges laid against Mc Lawrence. Prosecutor Butcher noted that none of the men onboard were declared on an immigration form and this was a breach of the law. A sum of money including US$4200 and EC$9555 was also confiscated along with the boat.