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Union Island house keeper gets 40 months jail time

Union Island house keeper gets 40 months jail time
ZIPPORAH JOHN

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A PRISON TERM of 40 months has been handed down to the house keeper from Union Island who made headlines 12 days ago for possessing 85 pounds of cocaine.

The sentence was delivered by Chief Magistrate, Rechanne Browne at the Serious Offences Court (SOC) on Monday, May 9, after the judicial officer deliberated on submissions made by Zipporah John’s lawyer, Grant Connell, and the prosecutor, Station Sergeant Renrick Cato.

While the magistrate had initially set the date of sentencing for May 5 – a week after hearing initial submissions from both sides – the defence lawyer made additional points on John’s family wanting to help to pay a possible fine, and Browne further deliberated until yesterday.

When the 40-month term was handed down to her, John seemingly absorbed it with no obvious outward displays of emotion, which was different to last Thursday when she was observed to be reduced to muffled crying which then escalated to sobs after she was taken outside the courtroom and comforted by a friend or family member.

John’s position, put forward by her lawyer, has been that she was helping someone stash a small “weed” in her premises after a boat broke down. She disclosed that she was only supposed to hold it until morning and if she had known what it was, she wouldn’t have taken it, he had informed the court.

The police maintain that on April 25, the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) led by Corporal 771 Bowens went to John’s home at Ashton with a search warrant, and in a blue barrel found buoys which were cut open to reveal packages of the drug.

“In constructing a sentence for an offender the court must assess each case on its merits, the court must also consider the principles of sentencing,” namely retribution, deterrence, prevention and rehabilitation, the magistrate said.

Additionally, she consulted the sentencing guidelines from the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) and statute which allows for a fine of EC$500,000, or up to seven years imprisonment.

A major point made by the prosecution is that the quantity of drug would be well over one million dollars.

Having assessed the quantity of the substance the court placed the offence in category one and also determined that the defendant’s role was significant.

The court chose a starting point of 65% of the maximum, or 53 months.

It then moved on to weigh the factors of the crime

that serve to aggravate and those that serve to mitigate.

On the aggravating side there is the “sophisticated nature of concealment”, the fact that the drug is cocaine, and the type of effect this has on persons, and the prevalence of the offence.

On the other hand the court took into consideration the mistaken belief that her counsel indicated John was under in relation to the identity of the substance.

This saw an upward movement of six months.

Following this the court considered John herself. The first time offender did not have anything in her personal circumstances to aggravate and to her credit she had no criminal record and expressed extreme remorse. She is also a mother and the court took into account the dependants, even though in this case two of her older children seemed to be living with other relatives on the mainland.

There was a six month reduction after those considerations were weighed.

There is a one third deduction applied to her sentence and this resulted in the largest deduction yet of 17 months.

After applying the maths, the magistrate concluded that for possession of 38,707g of cocaine with intent to supply a 36 month sentence would be appropriate. Further, that a 40 month sentence would be appropriate for possession of the drug for the purposes of drug trafficking.

The two terms will run concurrently; John would therefore serve the longer sentence of 40 months.

The 12 days she has been in prison leading up to her sentence will be subtracted.

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