Brac men jailed for ganja

Buckets sent to Little Cayman from Grand Cayman

Terry Burke, 59, and Shane McDermot,
37, were sentenced to prison last week after Chief Magistrate Margaret
Ramsay-Hale found they had been involved with 4.08 kilos of ganja in September

She found Burke guilty of
possession with intent to supply and handed down a sentence of 18 months.
McDermot was found guilty of being concerned in Burke’s possession with intent;
he received six months.

The men, who are uncle and nephew,
travelled from Cayman Brac to Little Cayman to
collect buckets with Burke’s name on them and which were labelled as containing
“drywall mud”.

Trial began last July and concluded
in November with the guilty verdicts. The magistrate said at the time the sole
issue was whether the men knew the buckets contained the drug.

Defence Attorneys John Furniss and
Clyde Allen indicated they would welcome social inquiry reports before
sentencing, so the matter was adjourned until December.

Subsequent adjournments occurred
when one or the other attorney had to be in Grand Court or when the magistrate was

Last week, the pre-sentence reports
were referred to when the attorneys spoke in mitigation.

Mr. Furniss said Burke’s report
showed he had expressed frustration because the people who had set him up, or
put him in this position, basically went unpunished.

The magistrate also quoted from the
report, saying Burke was adamant he had been targeted and took issue with the
“improper behaviour of police and the failure of the system to punish the
people who shipped the ganja from Grand Cayman to Little

Mr. Furniss said Burke was well
thought of on the Brac. He produced several letters of reference, including one
from a woman who said Burke and his wife had literally saved her life after Hurricane
Paloma destroyed her home in November 2008. The magistrate read it. She said it
was a moving letter and she accepted the sentiments expressed were real.

Mr. Furniss said Burke and his wife
had suffered financially since the hurricane because so many tourism-related
premises had been damaged and business was still slow. In addition, he had come
over for sentencing several times, which had been an additional financial

The attorney suggested that, given
Burke’s age and good character, the magistrate could consider a non-custodial

On behalf of McDermot, Mr. Allen asked
for probation or community service. He described McDermot as a good person, a
hard-working family man and one who had loved and looked up to his uncle.

He asked the court to recall one
piece of evidence police had agreed to in the trial – that when they started
searching the buckets, McDermot said to Burke, “‘What have you got me into?’ and
he was so upset and enraged that police had to separate them.”

The magistrate read aloud from McDermot’s
social inquiry report and noted the mental anguish caused by the rupture with
the uncle as well as worry about his children and not being able to provide for
them. The mental anguish had had negative physical consequences.

Further, “The entire family seems
to be suffering as a result [of the incident]. The report says the rift between
the men has had repercussions on the whole family,” she said.

The case for the prosecution, as
presented by Crown Counsel Tricia Hutchinson, was that Burke had agreed to
collect the ganja and pass it on it to other parties, retaining a small portion
for himself.  The Crown said McDermot was
not part of that plan, but knew what Burke intended and willingly assisted him.

One of the early witnesses in the
trial was the Thompson Shipping Company agent in Little Cayman.
He said when the buckets arrived; he was trying to figure out how to get them
to Burke on the Brac. He said Burke phoned him and said he would come to Little Cayman because he had small jobs there.

But Burke was adamant that the
agent had called him and insisted that he come pick them up. But the agent replied
he didn’t even have Burke’s phone number.

The magistrate accepted the agent
as a witness of truth, with no reason to lie and no interest to serve. She
found that Burke was expecting the
shipment and knew its contents.

Then, after he and McDermot went to
Little Cayman and collected the buckets, the
car they were in met up with an unmarked car driven by a police officer. A
slow-speed chase ensued for about a mile. McDermot described Burke as “in a
panic” as he drove.

Burke denied speeding or driving in
any evasive manner. This, the magistrate said, was inconsistent with his assertion
that an unknown vehicle had approached and rammed him twice, thereby raising
for the court’s consideration the possibility that he was driving away in fear
of unknown assailants.

The magistrate rejected Burke’s
account and said his driving conduct betrayed guilty knowledge.

The evidence against McDermot came
largely from McDermot, she said. He admitted hearing a conversation between Burke
and another man about ganja and Burke getting a pound. This occurred the night
before he and Burke went to Little Cayman.

In his statement to police,
McDermot said he went to watch his uncle’s back. In court, he denied that,
saying he went to help because his uncle had a bad back.

His statement also referred to
collecting the buckets that had the
ganja. McDermot said the officer taking the statement added the part about the

In a special hearing, Mr. Allen had
argued that McDermot was under duress when he made his statement. The
magistrate pointed out, however, that he had refused to sign it; she was not
persuaded that any threats or inducements were operating on his mind, since he
had exercised his free will in refusing to sign.

She noted he had consulted an
attorney by phone and it was after that that he gave his statement, which she
found admissible.