A young man who pleaded not guilty to carrying contraband into Northward Prison had the charge against him dismissed on Monday.
He had been accused of taking an unauthorized item when he went to Northward Prison to visit his brother, who was an inmate, on April 15, 2017. The charge was not laid until Oct. 19, 2017 – more than six months later.
The fact that the unauthorized item was 2.96 grams of ganja did not matter.
Since the charge was brought after the six-month time limit, Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn dismissed it for being out of time.
The magistrate explained her ruling by referring to the laws involved and the evidence she had heard.
The evidence was that a prison officer had seen the defendant with a paper towel; then he and his brother shook hands and the inmate put his right hand into his pants pocket. The officer asked him to hand over what his visitor had just given him.
The inmate handed it over, but said it was just a small thing and he asked her not to report him.
Examination of the item showed it to contain vegetable matter resembling ganja.
Another prison officer gave evidence that under the Prisons Law, nothing was permitted to be brought into the prison unless it was specifically authorized. It did not matter whether possession of the item was unlawful, like drugs, or lawful in other circumstances, like a cellphone or a stick of chewing gum.
Second, if an item would be authorized, it would have to be given to a prison officer and not to the prisoner directly.
Offenses against the Prisons Law are triable in Summary Court only. The Criminal Procedure Code provides that such charges must be laid within six months.
The magistrate noted that if the charge had been brought under the Misuse of Drugs Law, it would have still been valid, because that law provides more time.