More than an ounce of ganja was found in a shampoo bottle handed in at Northward Prison for an inmate, Magistrate Nova Hall heard during a recent trial.
The issue for her to decide was whether the person who handed it in knew the ganja was in the bottle, which was not transparent.
Defendant Launa Batten, 43, had pleaded not guilty to attempting to supply ganja and possession of ganja with intent to supply. She was charged after an incident in June 2004.
Batten admitted handing in the shampoo, plus a bottle of conditioner and cigarettes for her brother. She did not challenge the allegation that ganja was found in the bottle, but she contended she did not know it was there.
The magistrate pointed out that, under the Misuse of Drugs Law, there is a presumption: Where it is proved beyond reasonable doubt that a person possessed or supplied anything containing a controlled drug, it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, that the person was in possession of the drug.
That presumption can be rebutted, and, if there is any doubt about the defendant’s knowledge about the drug, then it would be established that she had no real possession, the magistrate said in her verdict last week.
After hearing the evidence, she found that Batten had failed to rebut the presumption of possession. The Crown had proved its case, she said, and the defendant was guilty of both charges.
Proceeding to sentence, the magistrate asked if the defendant had anything to say. Batten, who was not represented, said she was not guilty of the knowledge and would never do anything to hurt anyone else. She asked the court to consider her chronic illness.
The magistrate imposed a sentence of one year imprisonment, but suspended it for two years and ordered costs of $210.
Batten had pleaded guilty to possession of a ganja spliff and consumption of ganja. For these offences she was fined $250 each.
In her evidence, Batten said her brother had phoned her and asked her to bring the toiletries and cigarettes for him. She thought he wanted her to buy the items and told him she had no money.
She reported him as replying that was no problem because his son or his son’s friend would bring the items to her place of employment.
This was inconsistent with her police interview, the magistrate pointed out. In the interview, Batten said that while she had been told her nephew would bring the items to her; they were brought by a strange man whose identity she did not know.
Batten also said she was unaware that her brother used ganja. This was in stark contrast to her testimony that, some time previously, her brother had tried to use his girlfriend to bring drugs to him in a pair of shoes.
This prior knowledge of her brother’s conduct made her story, about accepting items for him from someone unknown, somewhat incredible, the magistrate said.
The prosecution was conducted by Crown Counsel Scott Wilson.
He called as one of his witnesses the prison officer who said he received the items from Batten. After examining them, as was the custom, he found the ganja. The officer said that, by this time, the defendant was already leaving in her vehicle.
He tried to attract her attention, but was not certain if she saw him. He made a report and Batten was subsequently arrested.
The police officer who was called to the prison said the contents had been emptied from one of the bottles and replaced with the ganja.
It was in the form of five sprig-like preparations, individually wrapped and each about ten inches in length. The lab analysis showed them to be ganja weighing 1.167 ounces.
The shampoo and conditioner bottles were 15-ounces each. The magistrate commented that Batten should have noticed the difference in weight and made enquiries.
Batten had also admitted having used ganja and knowing what it looked like and what it smelled like.
Further, she said she did open both bottles to smell them because she was curious about that brand of shampoo and conditioner. She testified that the person she took them to at the prison smelt them as well.
Further, Batten said the bottle did feel heavy. When she opened it, it had liquid in it and when the prison officer opened it, it had liquid in it.
The magistrate pointed out that, based on the evidence of both the defendant and the prison officer; Batten had already left before he opened the bottles, so she could not have seen him do so.
Having listened to the defendant and observed her demeanour, the magistrate was of the view that this evidence was clearly untrue. She was also of the view that the defendant told lies due to her consciousness of guilt.
Altogether, she was not satisfied that Batten did not have actual knowledge that there was ganja in the shampoo bottle.
But if Batten had no actual knowledge, then given all the circumstances, any failure on her part to search the package given to her was attributed to her deliberately closing her eyes to those circumstances.