Girlfriend’s car seized for ganja

After a young man was found guilty last week of possession of ganja with intent to supply, the car used to transport the drug was forfeited to the Crown.

According to evidence heard during trial, the car did not belong to defendant Leon St. Michael Hydes; it belonged to his then-girlfriend.

In sentencing Hydes to nine months imprisonment, Magistrate Nova Hall ordered that the vehicle be held 30 days or longer after seizure to allow for any claims to be filed.

The Misuse of Drugs Law provides that the court must order the forfeiture of vehicles used to facilitate the commission of a drug offence. It also sets out the procedure by which the vehicle’s owner may make a claim to have the vehicle restored.

In this case, not only did the young woman lose the use of her car, she was also arrested and spent some time in police custody before being released. She was not charged.

Hydes, 24, had pleaded guilty to simple possession of 43 pounds of ganja, but not guilty to possession with intent to supply.

He maintained that he had found the ganja in five-gallon buckets on the beach near Smith Cove on 9 March 2005. He said he put the buckets in the trunk of the car, intending to carry them to police. But he stopped to tell his girl friend first because it was her car and he didn’t know what she would say about it.

Asked by Crown Counsel Andre Mon Desir why he didn’t just go straight to the police, he replied, ‘It’s not my car.’

The court had first heard from a police officer who said he was on patrol with other officers in plain clothes in an area where they knew drugs were consumed. He saw Hydes drive by and pull in near a residence.

The witness said that when Hydes saw the police, he walked off in a hasty manner and slipped a key to a female standing on a porch. He subsequently made good his escape.

The officers requested a search of the vehicle. When one of the buckets was opened and the ganja was shown to the young woman, she replied, ‘Oh, my gosh.’

Hydes was arrested at his home two days later. He then told police the girl had nothing to do with the ganja, the officer reported.

The defendant also gave evidence.

He said that after finding the ganja he wanted to notify the owner of the car.

When her got to his girlfriend’s residence, he was trying to explain to her that ‘boy, I found these things.’

After he gave her the car keys, the arresting officers approached and asked hi for a search. They searched him and didn’t find anything. They never asked him about the car. ‘I was free to go, so I walk away,’ he told the court.

In cross-examination, Mr. Mon Desir asked why he didn’t tell the police about the ganja. ‘I wasn’t thinking at the time,’ Hydes replied. ‘When I saw them I was shocked.’

Mr. Mon Desir asked why he was in a hurry to leave. Hydes denied being in a hurry. He said he hung around. Asked how long, he estimated 15 or 20 minutes, as the police were asking about other cars in the area.

Mr. Mon Desir asked again why he didn’t tell police he had ganja in his girlfriend’s car. Hydes said he didn’t get the chance.

Asked what stopped him he answered, ‘Well, nothing really stopped me.’

He volunteered that he did not run away. He said he walked around a corner to relieve himself and was going to go back. But then he saw some Jamaicans playing dominos and they got up and ran off, so he decided to leave.

In summarising the case against Hydes, Defence Attorney John Furniss said the defendant had admitted having a previous conviction for consumption of ganja. Given the situation he found himself in, Hydes didn’t think the police would believe him. Exactly the mess he wanted to avoid is what happened, Mr. Furniss summarised.

Mr. Mon Desir listed the numerous opportunities Hydes had from the time of finding the ganja until the police came to his house two days later. He gave his story after he had two days to think about it.

It was illogical that Hydes would leave the scene and leave the girl to take the rap when he had an innocent explanation, the Crown Counsel concluded.

The magistrate rejected Hydes’ story, saying he could have told the police about the ganja while at the girlfriend’s residence.

Hydes had acknowledged knowing one of the officers.

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