After claiming ownership of cocaine and marijuana that had been ferried between the islands of St Vincent and the Grenadines, a 43-year-old man must reach into his pockets for thousands of dollars or spend this Christmas in prison.
Joel Stapleton of Rose Hall admitted his guilt before the Serious Offences Court(SOC) on Tuesday, August 17, to the possession of 4,321g (nine and a half pounds) of cannabis and 56g of cocaine.
However, his co-accused maintained his innocence and the prosecution chose to withdraw the matters against him.
It was revealed that on May 26, 2020, the Special Services Unit was on travel search duties at the Canouan wharf, and were accompanied by officers from the Canouan police station. They observed the Gem Star #2 docked, and saw a male come off the vessel with several bags in hand. A police constable approached the male, and asked him to go to the police station where a search was conducted. A flour sack, and the two compartments of a Jansport backpack were found to contain taped packages with drugs.
The man told the police that somebody had needed help with the bags, and told them who it was. Investigations were carried out and the named person was picked up; but he said nothing to the police. Later, Stapleton appeared at the police station and informed the police that the items belonged to him.
Grant Connell represented Stapleton. Connell told Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne that his client, a father, showed “extreme remorse” for his actions. Also, he pointed out that Stapleton had co-operated with the police from the inception.
Connell had begun to turn his attention to the sentencing guidelines, when the magistrate noted that the court was not looking at a custodial sentence, also noting that she hadn’t observed many aggravating factors.
The defense counsel further informed the court that although unemployed at the time, his client has family overseas who will likely assist him in paying a fine. He asked that if the court is minded to impose a fine, that it be on the lower end.
The cannabis is locally grown, he also pointed out.
The magistrate commented that of the substances, the one that she detests is cocaine. “That mashes up people immensely – their mind, their livelihoods, their families; just everything,” she said. The cannabis is plant-based and locally grown, Browne revised, while the other “wretched” substance could contain all manner of things.
Before she delivered her sentence, Browne asked Prosecutor Sergeant Renrick Cato if he had any submissions to make. The prosecutor said that Stapleton gave himself in to the police when he heard the others were in custody, and he must be given credit for that. On the other hand, Cato also commented that the substance moved from one part of the country to another and the defendant is fortunate that he only has two charges. “Very fortunate.”
After consideration, the magistrate noted that although the matter had been before the court several times already, and therefore Stapleton would not have entered a guilty plea at the first opportunity, he had gone to the police station and admitted responsibility. Therefore, she allowed the one third discount that is given when offenders admit guilt at the first opportunity.
For the marijuana, she began at a value of $6500 and reduced this by $2666 for the one third discount, taking the fine to $4330 (rounded off).
In the case of the cocaine, she started at $4000, reducing this by $1333.33(one third), to take the fine to $2660 (rounded off).
These are the fines that Stapeleton was ordered to pay by December 23, and if he defaults he will serve 11 months in prison on the marijuana conviction, and eight months on that of the cocaine to run concurrently.