Judge rules 8 years not too much for a pound of cocaine

An appeal against a sentence of eight years for importation of 16.2 ounces of cocaine was not successful last week.

Justice Robin McMillan said the term of imprisonment imposed in Summary Court on Tracy Acealia Bourne was neither harsh nor manifestly excessive.

Bourne was stopped at the Owen Roberts International Airport on April 12, 2013, when she was found to have the illegal drug concealed on her person. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced in January 2014.

Attorney Lee Halliday-Davis argued three grounds of appeal: that Bourne, 33 at the time of her arrest, made immediate admissions; that she gave important information to investigating authorities; and that the Crown never produced an analysis as to the purity of the drug.

She referred specifically to a 2009 Grand Court decision in which Chief Justice Anthony Smellie had said he was taking into account the defendant’s guilty plea, cooperation and the purity of the drug. She pointed out that the defendant in that case had received eight years for 16.8 ounces, but his guilty plea was not entered until just before the trial day.

Further, the Chief Justice had explained the factor of the drug’s purity. Total weight of the imported substance was 16.8 ounces, 61 per cent pure. The weight of the cocaine itself, therefore, was 10.2 ounces. This lesser weight did not take the offense out of the scale of sentences for “most serious” but it did reduce it to the lower end of that scale.

Cayman’s 2002 sentencing guidelines set 15 years as the starting point. Ms. Halliday-Davis said Bourne should have received a higher discount.

Crown counsel Toyin Salako pointed out that all of these points were raised with the sentencing magistrate, Valdis Foldats, and considered by him. Further, the 2009 case referred to as precedent, had gone to the Court of Appeal. The judges there did not seek to alter or reduce the sentence or comment on the tariff of 15 years.

Further, when sentencing Bourne, the magistrate had commented on the negative effects of drugs in the Cayman Islands. Bourne was “only” a courier, but without couriers there would be no other way for drugs to get here.

Ms. Salako referred to Bourne’s own admission that this was the second time she had brought drugs to Cayman. “She was paid the first time and was fortunate enough to get through Customs without getting caught. She then chose to take the risk the second time.”

The magistrate specifically noted that he did not take into account the fact that this was Bourne’s second importation [in which case the starting point would have been higher.] With the 15-year starting point, Bourne’s discount was just under 50 percent, Ms. Salako pointed out.

She said the Crown accepted the defendant’s account of what had happened, but Bourne never gave a formal witness statement and there was no indication of willingness to give evidence in any trial.

When Bourne was first brought to court, it was noted that she was from Guyana and had traveled from Suriname through Trinidad and then to Jamaica before arriving in Grand Cayman.

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