A boat captain who imported 546 pounds of ganja was jailed Tuesday for three-and-a-half years.

The weight of ganja being imported and the role played by defendant Ricky William Manderson were the main factors affecting his sentence, Magistrate Valdis Foldats said.

Manderson, now 60, pleaded guilty to the charge of importing ganja, with conspiracy with others, between Sept. 1, 2015 and Feb. 23, 2016.

The magistrate said that in setting sentence he would use a starting point based on the quantity of ganja imported and then adjust for the role Manderson had played – that of boat captain and organizer.

Details of the offense were put before the court by Crown counsel Candia James. She said officers of the marine unit were on patrol along the north coast on the night of Feb. 23, 2016. They saw a 25-foot fishing vessel with three people on board and no lights, which aroused their suspicion.

The boat subsequently ran aground in the Hutland area of North Side and its occupants fled into the bush. Officers checked the boat and observed it had a 225-horsepower engine and multiple packages of ganja on board.

Shortly after midnight, they found Manderson in the area of Chisholm Drive in North Side. He was wet, wearing shorts and a T-shirt but no shoes.

Officers overheard him admit that he had captained the boat. However, he later asserted that he had been on the scene only to meet the boat.

Shoes and slippers found aboard the vessel were tested and DNA recovered proved to be a match for Manderson’s DNA. He then admitted that he had been the boat’s captain and he knew the other two men only as Mac and Fabian.

Defense attorney John Furniss said Manderson intended to deal only with 200 pounds of the ganja, while the rest was “for others, not himself.” However, the attorney accepted that Manderson as captain was responsible for the whole amount.

On the other hand, this aggravating feature was known only because of Manderson’s honesty, Mr. Furniss pointed out. The defendant’s admissions took him out of the category of “boatman” or crew to having a much more leading role.

“It’s rare we get anyone but the crew men,” the magistrate noted.

He asked why Manderson would do such a thing at his age. Mr. Furniss acknowledged that the defendant had numerous previous convictions, including some for drugs, but none for importing or supplying. He was having trouble getting a job and made the decision to bring in ganja to make some money.

Ms. James pointed out that the maximum sentence for a first ganja offense is seven years, while the maximum for conspiracy is 10 years. She urged the court to consider that Manderson had been caught almost red-handed and therefore a full one-third discount for a guilty plea was not warranted.

In passing sentence, the magistrate pointed out that Manderson had to know or locate a contact in a foreign country in order to get the ganja; he had to negotiate a price and arrange transportation.

This was not an impulsive act; it required planning, the magistrate said. It was a criminal enterprise to bring a large quantity of an illegal drug into the country. Importers are the link between the foreign producers and the local dealers, the magistrate pointed out. The offense has to be punished and the punishment has to be a deterrent to others who might be tempted to do the same.

Given the quantity of ganja, the starting point was four years. Manderson’s role in bringing it in raised the sentence to six years. The magistrate gave him six months credit for mitigating factors, bringing the sentence down to 66 months.

Then he allowed full discount for the guilty plea. “I try to give the highest credit possible because we want people to take responsibility for their actions,” he explained.

Taking off one-third, he arrived at 44 months. Mr. Furniss asked for credit for the time his client had been bailed with an electronic monitor. Courts generally allow half the time because the monitor restricts the wearer’s liberty.

The magistrate deducted a further two months for a final sentence of 42 months. Manderson will also received credit for time in custody.

The magistrate also ordered forfeiture of the vessel to the Crown. An order was made previously for the destruction of the ganja.

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