Cocaine importer gets five years

Personal use no excuse

Alrick Olson Rankine was sentenced
to five years imprisonment last week following his guilty plea to a charge of
importing 1.46 ounces of cocaine.

Defence Attorney John Furniss gave
notice of intention to appeal, having told the court earlier that the drug was
for Rankine’s own use.

Chief Magistrate Margaret
Ramsay-Hale replied, “Let us go to the Grand Court on that one.”

She indicated that any lower
sentence would open the floodgates to people who, if caught, would claim the
drug was for personal use. “It’s an easy thing for any man to say,” she pointed

One and a half ounces of cocaine
powder is a lot, the magistrate said. She referred to a 1997 Grand Court ruling
in which the judge noted that any importation of drugs increases the stock in
the community.

Mr. Furniss said the court did not
have any suggestion of that from Rankine’s previous behaviour.

“I have the suggestion from the
sheer quantity,” the magistrate replied.

Another factor was the need to
deter persons who might be tempted to bring illegal drugs into these Islands,
she indicated.

Rankine, 34, admitted bringing the
cocaine, plus .31 ounce of ganja, when he returned from Jamaica on 3 May 2009.

The case for the Prosecution was
that customs officers became suspicious of Rankine after his arrival at the
airport. They searched him and his luggage, but nothing was found. Still
suspicious, they took him to the hospital, where an X-ray of his abdomen showed
the presence of foreign objects.

Rankine subsequently passed seven
pellets containing a substance that proved to be cocaine and three pellets
containing ganja.

Mr. Furniss said Rankine was a drug
user who had successfully hidden his habit even from his wife.  He had gone to Jamaica with friends and used the
opportunity to get a supply for himself.

“I accept one does look at quantity
when passing sentence, but you also have to look at each individual case,” Mr.
Furniss urged. “Alrick Rankine is different from the norm. I ask for a sentence
to be pitched between simple possession for personal use and the importation.”

He emphasised the defenant’s early
plea. In effect, he told the court, Rankine was saying, “Yes, it’s mine. Yes, I
imported. Yes, I was stupid, but I’m a user.” Mr. Furniss said Rankine shold be
believed because he had no previous convictions.

In passing sentence, the magistrate
noted that the tariff for importation of that amount would be eight years
without mitigating circumstances. “The fact that you say it is for your own use
does not change the situation much.”

She pointed again to the
possibility of some of the coaine making its way into the community.

“I take into account you are an
addict and felt compelled to do what you did,” she said in handing down the
five years. For the ganja, she ordered a concurrent sentence of nine months.
Time served will count.

Crown Counsel Alister Cumming asked
for an order for the destruction of
the drugs.


  1. That’s all??? There is already a big drug problem here in Cayman. Why don’t we follow other nations who are more successful in battling this problem? There are countries when you enter, the immigration form says – bring in drugs – DEATH. There are a number where caning is still used and it is effective. Maybe right now Cayman cannot sentence death, but there are other strong punishments that can be given. There needs to be a much greater deterrent to drugs with all the social problems it causes (and there are a multitude).

    It seems that unless members of the judicial system, the rights commission, Government Ministers and the likes are directly affected, or family members directly affected, life goes on – ignoring and not actively pushing for harder penalties against people whose crimes affect others.

    Speaking of penalties, when will there be a reform in the prison system? Why does there need to be airconditioning in prison when many working people on the island can’t afford airconditiong? Why does there need to be choices at meal-time when many working people have no choices, and many have to fill up on rice or bread-kind with little meat and vegetables due to the cost? Why are the prisoners allowed cell phones, some to continue their “businesses”? Why are they allowed free, great medical care when there are workers who can barely pay for theirs? Why do the working people, many who put in very long hours, and some who don’t even have more than very basic health insurance, have far less than criminals who know that the prison is closer to a hotel than what many ordinary people can afford? Something seriously needs to be done. Start by looking at the many people in the population who are earning less than 2,000 per month and see how they are living. Prisoners should not be treated as though they are earning thousands per month!

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