Ganja offender passes court test

Six others continue to be monitored

Seven men who previously pleaded guilty to possession and/or consumption of ganja had their matters reviewed in Summary Court on Monday. 

Only one defendant was sentenced. He received a year on probation with random drug testing. He was also ordered to pay costs of $162. 

Magistrate Valdis Foldats directed the other men to return to court so that he could continue to monitor their progress. Like the successful defendant, once they achieve three clean months in a row, they can look forward to a year’s probation and no conviction recorded if they complete the probation satisfactorily.  

This sentencing approach has been adopted in recent years for defendants whose ganja use is not related to other offending behavior. 

All seven who attended on Monday submitted to a urine analysis so that the magistrate could have evidence of whether they had used drugs since their previous court appearance. 

One defendant, who turned 20 last week, tested positive for cocaine, although he had been coming to court since July only for ganja charges.  

“I’m very rigid when it comes to cocaine. I’m going to remand you in custody,” the magistrate told him. 

Someone present in court spoke to Crown Counsel Candia James and she rose to pass on a suggestion. 

The magistrate declined to consider it. “What is unusual about this case?” he asked. “There has to be a message sent – you can’t come to court with cocaine in your system. I’m consistent in my approach.” 

He ordered that the man be kept in custody for three days and be brought back to court on Thursday afternoon. “You’ve got cocaine in your system, so I don’t know how much of this is getting through to you,” he told this defendant. 

The stay in prison is typically referred to as a “therapeutic remand,” designed to assist the defendant in being sober when he returns to court. 

Another defendant, 45, had been placed on a seven-day remand after testing positive when he came to court in November. On Monday, his test was negative. The magistrate spoke to him about his progress and gave him a return date in January. 

“Christmas is coming up, and then New Year’s. Keep strong,” Mr. Foldats urged. 

The magistrate gave his “last chance warning” to a 21-year-old who has been coming to court since August 2013. His file showed he has had a few clean tests, but not consistently. The magistrate has explained that court resources cannot be wasted; they are for defendants who can be seen to be making an effort.  

A 23-year-old entered his guilty plea in March. He has had both positive and negative test results since then, but was negative on Monday and in November. If he is negative in January, the magistrate will sentence him.  

Two other defendants were also given dates in 2015. 

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