Ganja case causes a stir

Five men charged with the importation of ganja following the seizure of 632 pounds of the drug appeared in Summary Court on Thursday, 22 October amid confusion about their representation.

Caymanian Dencel Vic Barnes 39, along with 30-year-old Henry Heron of Hanover, Jamaica, 20-year-old Shawn Reid of West Moreland, Jamaica, 37-year-old Jasper Stewart from Portland, Jamaica, and Cleveland Meldon Roxgoughly of Westmoreland, Jamaica, were arrested 8 September.

Only two of the men were represented in court, Barnes, who is advised by John Furniss and Roxgoughly, whose case will be handled by Attorney Nicholas Dixey.

Mr. Dixey told the court he had a legal aid certificate to represent the client but did not know whether it was valid.

The attorney was referring to the proposed dissolution of the current legal aid system by the government and the possible redundancy of his legal aid obligations under the plan.

Attorney Benjamin Tonner has been directed by the courts to apply for legal aid on behalf of the other three men.

Mr. Furniss said in light of the circumstances faced by the other men, he was hoping that his client could plea to the charges and be sentenced, at which time Magistrate Grace Donalds put the charges to Barnes, who replied, ‘guilty your honour.’

It was decided by the Magistrate that Barnes should return to court for sentencing on Monday, 26 October.

Attorney Dixie advised his client to also answer the charges and Roxgoughly submitted a guilty plea.

He was ordered to come back to court on 12 November for sentencing, after his attorney asked for a report to be prepared in the interim.

Barnes refused any such report.

Defendant Jasper Stewart addressed the court saying, ‘Your Honour, like how there is no attorneys, I would also like to plea.’

The Magistrate said she was not minded to have anyone plea without the advice of an attorney but obliged Stewart, who declared he was prepared to proceed.

At this time, the other men said they also wanted to plea.

As a result, all of the defendants plead guilty to the charges except Mr. Stewart.

Magistrate Donalds said this was unexpected by the court, given that Stewart had requested to make his plea.

She said this meant a trial would have to be scheduled for him and advised Stewart that such a development could lead to a harsher sentence if he were found guilty.

The defendant indicated he wanted to proceed regardless of the Court’s advice and said he had no issue with representing himself.

This posed an issue for the court with regard to Barnes’ and Roxborough’s scheduled sentencing, according to attorneys, who argued that as all the defendants are charged together they should be sentenced at the same time to avoid the risk of prejudice, which may occur if someone is sentenced before all proceedings are complete.

The judge then scheduled Stewart’s trial for 8 December and a mention for the other four defendants on the same date in order to review their position at that time regarding sentencing.