Woman gets four years for bringing cocaine into prison

Magistrate says people must be deterred from similar actions

Cristalee Connolly, 25, was sentenced last week to four years imprisonment after pleading guilty to possessing 1.44 grams of cocaine with intent to supply to an inmate at Her Majesty’s Prison at Northward. 

Defence attorney John Furniss had agreed that the offence was serious, but he urged the court to hand down a suspended sentence so that Connolly could have supervision and receive the assistance she needed. He said she had acted out of “misplaced loyalty to a partner who threatened and pressured her.” Mr. Furniss gave immediate notice of appeal. 

Senior Crown counsel Tania Lobban said the offence occurred on Sunday, 22 April, 2012. Connolly had a package concealed in her mouth when she went to visit a prisoner. In the visitors lounge, she carried out a vomiting-type action, which was observed by a guard. He asked her to hand over whatever she took out of her mouth. 

Police were called to the prison and the contents of the package were sent for laboratory analysis. 

Interviewed under caution, Connolly said, “I did not know it was cocaine. I thought it was ganja.” Connolly herself tested positive for ganja, which she said she used to deal with stress. Mr. Furniss pointed out that Connolly did not go out and obtain the drug. The inmate made arrangements and persuaded Connolly to be the courier. She succumbed to pressure from an overbearing personality, the attorney suggested. In addition, Connolly admitted that the inmate had promised he would pay her $150 or $200 and, as a single mother, she needed the money. 

Connolly had no previous convictions, Mr. Furniss said. 

Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn said drugs in prison are a worse evil than they are in open society because they become the currency of prison. They have much greater value there than on the street and they can be responsible for injuries to prison staff. 

The magistrate asked if there were any local authorities regarding supply of drugs into prison. Told no, she adjourned the case for a week for research. 

On 9 May, after hearing about UK sentences and referring to local guidelines for street dealing, the magistrate said even 1.44 grams of cocaine could attract nine years after trial, given the aggravating feature of smuggling into prison. 

Applying a one-third discount for Connolly’s guilty plea, she arrived at six years and further reduced that to reflect the defendant’s personal mitigation. 

Pressure from a boyfriend was not an uncommon feature in the UK cases cited to her, she said, and it would not detract from the need for a deterrent sentence. 

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