Ganja smoker drove dangerously

Speed estimated at 115 mph

Anieph Fitzroy Burton was sentenced
to three months imprisonment and recommended for deportation after Chief
Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale heard he had not only consumed ganja but had
driven under the influence of drugs.

On Tuesday, after he pleaded
guilty, Crown Counsel Candia James referred to a summary of facts that
indicated the most serious offence occurred on 10 January this year.

Around 1pm, police on patrol in
Lower Valley observed a vehicle heading toward George Town on the wrong side of
the road overtaking other vehicles at a high speed. The officers followed and
used their blue lights and siren as a sign for the driver to pull over. At that
point he was doing 82 mph in a 40-mph zone.

Instead of stopping, the driver
continued to speed up and, in the vicinity of Savannah Primary School, was
travelling at an estimated 100 mph, passing other cars on the inner and outer
lanes. He continued west and, near the Spotts Dock, his speed increased to 115
mph.

As the driver approached the Red
Bay Primary School on Shamrock Road doing about 75, the police shift commander
with whom they had been in radio contact ordered the officers to stop their pursuit.
They did so, but were able to observe the vehicle turning into Selkirk Drive
after almost hitting a car near the Red Bay Esso Station.

Other police units attended the
area and the car was eventually seen and stopped as it drove slowly. The driver
was Burton. He was found with four grams of ganja and tested positive for
consumption.

The incident led to charges of
dangerous driving, driving without being qualified, driving without insurance,
driving under the influence of drugs, taking a conveyance without the consent
of the owner, possession and consumption of ganja.

Ms James told the court that Burton
was arrested again and charged with possession and consumption of ganja in
March after officers on patrol stopped a vehicle. Burton was in it and so was a
clear plastic wrap containing 1.29 grams of the illegal drug.

On 8 June, she narrated; officers
on patrol in West Bay smelled a strong scent of ganja in the atmosphere. They
investigated and saw Burton driving and smoking. He was again charged with
possession and consumption of ganja.

The magistrate questioned why
Burton had not been charged with driving under the influence of drugs. “That
officer doesn’t know you can’t smoke weed and drive?” she wondered.

The series of incidents led the magistrate
to ask numerous questions of both the Crown and Defence Attorney Lloyd Samson.

She said Burton had led the police
on a high-speed chase in January. Not having learned, he was found with weed
again in March. Not learning yet, he was found again in June. “What do you
suggest I do with someone who cannot learn from experience?” she asked.

“Send him home,” Mr. Samson
suggested; “his bags are already packed.”

The attorney explained that
Burton’s mother lived in Cayman. Burton, 28, had lived here previously, but was
sent to Jamaica after he turned 18. His mother brought him back to Cayman last
Christmas and hoped he might find employment.

The magistrate addressed Burton
directly. “Your mother didn’t bring you here to embarrass her. She brought you
here for an opportunity and you smoked yourself into oblivion. Your opportunity
has gone up in smoke literally.”

She pointed out that driving so
dangerously and under the influence of drugs had put other road users at risk.
She indicated she could not impose any sentence other than prison. “I am
mindful of the need to let the public know the seriousness of the offence,” she
said. 

Prosecuting him had already
consumed much in the way of public funds and keeping him in custody would be an
additional burden on the public purse. Typically, he would be looking at a
prison term of six to nine months but she settled on three months, since she
would be recommending he be deported immediately upon completing his sentence.

She then debated whether she should
add fines for the ganja charges, but handed down concurrent sentences instead
and imposed the mandatory disqualification from driving for the lack of insurance.

The magistrate queried whether she
should fine Burton’s mother for failing to teach him to take advantage of opportunities.
Mr. Samson told her Burton had siblings here, all of whom were doing well.

The magistrate accepted this
information. “Sometimes they just do what they do in spite of a parent’s best
efforts,”
she remarked.

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