A man with a 20-year history of drug abuse appeared in Summary Court this week for sentencing on a 2004 charge of possession of cocaine for personal use.
Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale first referred to his file. Then she told him she wished she had been able to devise, with the probation and counselling services, some form of celebration with him to mark his most extraordinary accomplishment: he had been sober for 12 months.
Records showed he had been absent from court for over a year. But something happened in that time that made him a man ready to change, the magistrate said.
He entered the Caribbean Haven rehabilitation programme in December 2005 and completed it successfully in March 2006. Since then, the magistrate had directed him to return to court on a monthly basis so that she could check his progress with counselling and in the community.
The magistrate said the 12 months was his longest period of sobriety in 20 years and there should be something done to mark his tremendous achievement.
‘I only wish the courts had devised something to share with you and the public to show delight in your success,’ she said.
Under the new Drug Court regime, there will be certain sentencing options, but these were not yet in place, the magistrate continued.
The best course was to place the defendant on probation for 12 months, she said. That way, he will have resources to help him through the next year and a sponsor to call in a weak moment.
‘My warmest congratulations,’ she told him. ‘I cannot think of a better Christmas present than the one you have given me, yourself and your family.’
The defendant thanked the magistrate for giving him the chance to go to treatment.
On the same day, five other defendants with drug-related charges came before the court for review. In general, the magistrate asked about their employment situation and group or individual meetings with counsellors.
Earlier in the week, she told one such defendant he could come to court after noon so that his attendance would not interfere with his job.
She urged several of these defendants to be especially careful during the next few weeks because the holiday season can be especially difficult for recovering addicts. She suggested they stay away from persons, places and things that could lead to relapse.