Cocaine supplied to undercover officer

Six years imposed after guilty pleas

After pleading guilty to five charges of supplying cocaine, Garfield Hugh Silburn was sentenced last week to six years imprisonment. His attorney, Clyde Allen, said Silburn accepted that entrapment is not a defence. 

The sales were to an undercover officer who approached Silburn in downtown George Town in the early part of 2011. Six men were arrested and charged with supplying drugs as a result of an operation carried out near waterfront bars (Caymanian Compass, 6 June, 2011). 

Mr. Allen indicated that Silburn, 43, initially pleaded not guilty out of concern that, if the officer had not approached him, he would not be in court. “He went out of his way to get something for someone,” and fell prey to making such sales, the attorney said.  

“He does not come here and blame the officer. The method used by police is the right method to try to prevent crime,” Mr. Allen told Chief Magistrate Nova Hall. 

Crown Counsel Tricia Hutchinson said the undercover officer attended the waterfront area on 17 January, 2011 and saw Silburn selling coconuts from his pick-up truck. He asked if she wanted something and there was a conversation. She indicated she would be at a nearby bar that evening and gave him her phone number. He later came by in his truck and she went to the driver side where she was given a bag of powder and gave him $100. The powder was tested and shown to be cocaine. 

Four other incidents of supply occurred over the next few months outside one or the other of two premises with liquor licenses. 

Ms Hutchinson said Silburn had previous convictions, including one for possession of cocaine with intent to supply. She pointed out that the law provides heavier sentences for subsequent offences. 

Mr. Allen accepted that Silburn had been involved with drugs when he was younger, “but with the onset of age and wisdom he stopped and cleaned up his act … He regrets his involvement [in this matter] because he had not been involved in such behaviour for 10 or 12 years.” 

At the time of his arrest, Silburn was doing the only work he could get – mowing lawns and selling coconuts, the attorney said. He submitted several reference letters from people who described Silburn as a hard worker and a man of good moral character. His wife described the economic pressure and the effects of Silburn’s imprisonment on the family. “He is genuinely good, but became trapped in these circumstances and he is sorry,” Mr. Allen summarised. 

All the sales were to one person, he noted, and the total amount was small.  

Two supplies were for $100 amounts, one for $200 and two for $300 each. 

In light of the references and social inquiry report, Mr. Allen suggested a sentence of around two years. 

The magistrate stated at the outset of her sentencing remarks that she did not view Silburn as a first offender, but would deal with him as a repeat offender. 

She pointed out that the Misuse of Drugs Law is clear on sentencing: a maximum of 20 years for a first offence, while a second offence attracts 30 years. She agreed that the quantities were small, but guidelines and case law all indicate custodial sentences, especially when there is a profit motive. 

In cases cited to her that involved supply to undercover officers, sentences of four and five years had been upheld on appeal. In fact, the Court of Appeal had commented that in one case, the sentencing magistrate had exercised a greater degree of leniency than was warranted. 

Rather than impose separate penalties for each charge, the magistrate said she was considering the total quantity supplied. In imposing six years, she said the time Silburn had spent in custody since his arrests will be deducted. 

Ms Hutchinson advised that the Crown would be applying for forfeiture of Silburn’s vehicle.