Ship worker’s cocaine sentence upheld

Judge says 14 years is tough but not excessive

A cruise ship worker who came ashore in Cayman will be staying a lot longer, following his unsuccessful appeal in Grand Court on Friday. 

Seaford Laborde, a crew member of the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Jewel of the Seas, was sentenced in 2012 to 14 years’ imprisonment after Chief Magistrate Nova Hall found him guilty of possessing 2 pounds, 2 ounces of cocaine with intent to supply.  

Attorney Margeta Facey-Clarke gave immediate notice of appeal against the conviction and the sentence. Justice Alexander Henderson heard the appeals and dismissed both. 

The judge said Chief Magistrate Hall’s sentence was fairly tough, but it was not excessive or unreasonable. 

People who get involved in the drug trade know they are taking a big risk because the potential reward is so great, he indicated. Sentences have to be tough in order to discourage people from taking such a risk, he said.  

Laborde, 43, who is from St. Vincent, came ashore in Grand Cayman on March 5, 2011. 

Police officers were conducting an undercover operation that day because information had been received suggesting the local cruise ship industry was being used to smuggle cocaine into Grand Cayman. 

At trial, a police officer said he was dressed as a tourist when he interacted with Laborde across from the George Town post office. Other officers gave evidence of Laborde’s behavior before and after they approached him.  

Justice Henderson said the magistrate saw the witnesses, observed their demeanor and gave detailed reasons for accepting them as truthful and reliable witnesses. She also gave detailed reasons for not believing the defendant. Her findings of fact did not betray any error in law. 

Ms Facey-Clarke argued that Laborde had not been shown the cocaine, and that police had not invited him to witness the sealing of the exhibit before sending it for analysis. Justice Henderson asked what would have been gained by showing him the exhibit, since he had said on arrest that he didn’t know anything about it. The judge said he was aware that it is common practice for police to invite suspects to view the sealing of such evidence, but he knew of no legal doctrine requiring it and no authorities had been cited to him. 

Ms Facey-Clarke pointed out that Laborde did not have any scales, which a drug dealer would usually have, nor did he have any money. 

Crown counsel Michael Snape suggested that Laborde didn’t have scales with him because “he wasn’t setting up shop” and the fact that he had no money meant that police had caught him at the start of his day. 

Citing the guidelines for dealing in a substantial quantity of cocaine, Mr. Snape submitted, “Just because someone has been caught before he had a chance to sell doesn’t mean he should be treated differently.”  

Justice Henderson concluded that the magistrate was correct in starting Laborde’s sentence at 15 years and then giving him one year credit for his previous good character. 

The maximum sentence for a first offense of dealing 2 ounces or more of a hard drug is 20 years and a fine without limit.