Two young men with no previous convictions were sentenced last week to 90 days imprisonment for supplying cocaine during a police operation at nightclubs in 2004.
Emil Terry and Kenneth Bryan pleaded guilty to the charges after Mr. Justice Alex Henderson found that there had not been any entrapment by the police.
Michael Anthony Smith also pleaded guilty. He had already spent six months in custody, so the judge put him on probation for a year, with a curfew and condition that he stay out of bars and nightclubs.
The judge heard mitigation for the three on 9 February. He commented then that there was some merit in the public understanding that all traffickers go to jail. Cocaine use is considered a virtual social emergency in this country, he said. What message would be sent if cocaine traffickers did not go to jail? he asked.
Sentences were passed on 16 February.
All three defendants were in their early 20s at the time the offences took place. Police had set up an undercover operation to investigate the distribution of drugs at nightclubs. It lasted from April to July 2004. All three defendants initially met the undercover officers at The Next Level.
The judge said each young man had shown a familiarity with the world of drugs and cocaine. Each had been at the bottom of the distribution pyramid, being a trafficker although only in the smallest amounts for the smallest of sums.
Their motivations were mixed – at least part came from the nature of the undercover operation itself, the judge said. Two female officers were dressed in a sexually alluring manner appropriate to nightclubs such as The Next Level. They went with the specific intention of interesting young men in them in the well-founded expectation that they would be offered cocaine.
The judge said he was satisfied that each defendant had some genuine interest in one of the officers and each was attracted by her dress, make-up, appearance and demeanour. He was also satisfied that they were engaging in commercial transactions when they sold cocaine to the officer.
The officers’ actions did not amount to entrapment in law, he repeated. He was satisfied that each defendant would have sold cocaine to any other attractive, similarly dressed young woman who engaged them in conversation. There was nothing unique about the officer.
Kenneth Bryan had been described by his attorney, James Austin-Smith, as a social trafficker. The judge agreed it was significant that, the first time Bryan supplied cocaine to the officer, he left the club and was gone about two hours between the time of agreement for the sale and the time it took place.
If commerce were Bryan’s main motive on that evening, he would have been back sooner, the judge said. On the second occasion, at a rave, Bryan supplied the officer from his own stash. On the third occasion that she approached him, he declined to sell to her because he had concluded correctly that she had no sexual interest in him.
Emil Terry had pleaded guilty to one charge of attempting to supply – the substance he provided to the officer at the night club turned out to be baking powder.
On the next occasion, he met the officer in a parking lot and the substance he supplied then was cocaine.
Attorney John Furniss said Terry was a typical 21-year-old at the time, in that he hung around nightclubs because he wanted to have a good time. The first time he sold, it was because he hoped to establish a relationship with the young lady. On the second occasion, he would not have sold if she had not phoned him.
For Anthony Michael Smith, the judge said the case was different in that he did have a criminal record and used to be an addict. His attorney, Anthony Akiwumi, reported that Smith had been overcoming his habit and had not used since April 2006.
Mr. Akiwumi described Smith’s offence as opportunistic social supply.
In passsing sentence, Mr. Justice Henderson said the need for deterrence of cocaine trafficking is acute in this country. Cocaine is and will for the foreseeable future by causing a great deal of misery and it is no exaggeration to say it has ruined a considerable number of lives.
People who sell at the bottom of the pyramid are nevertheless part of the distribution system. His decision was that it would be wrong in principle to impose non-custodial sentences for any act of trafficking where there is not an immediate or pressing need to earn money to support one’s own addiction.
Some time had to be imposed to satisfy the acute need for deterrence. But he was making the sentence as low as it would ever be where trafficking was involved.
Afterwards, Mr. Austin-Smith asked if Bryan’s sentence could be deferred because he expected to finish his degree and graduate in June. If he could not, his sentence would have a far greater impact than just the time served.
The judge replied that cocaine destroys lives in many ways. Not getting his degree this year was something Bryan had brought on himself. He said the Defence had the right to seek bail from another judge, pending appeal.