Thursday, December 14, 2017

Drug trafficker waiting on appeal for sentencing

THE sentencing of convicted drug trafficker Danraj Harripersad has been put on hold, pending the final decision of five judges hearing the appeal of two men sentenced to 25 years for having marijuana for the purpose of trafficking.

On Tuesday, San Fernando judge Justice Hayden St Clair postponed Harripersad’s sentencing until the full ruling is made in the case of Barry Francis and Ro­ger Hinds.

It is expected on February 14.

Francis and Hinds were convicted in 2010 for possession of 1.16 kilogrammes of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking and were sentenced under Section 5 (5) of the Dangerous Drugs Act (as amended in 2000).

The act states: “A person who commits the offence of trafficking in a dangerous drug, or of being in possession of a dangerous drug for the purpose of trafficking, is liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine of $100,000 or, where there is evidence of the street value of the dangerous drug, three times the street value of the dangerous drug, whichever is greater, and to imprisonment for a term of 25 years to life.”

They were given the mandatory sentence, which their attorneys Jagdeo Singh and Amerelle Francis argued was unfair.

Since the filing of the appeal, several other persons found guilty of drug trafficking in the High Court have been awaiting sentencing pending the outcome of the matter.

Defence attorney Michael Rooplal had applied for Harri­persad’s sentence to be deferred until the decision is handed down.

The judgment had been reserved by the Court of Appeal since July 2012.

An oral judgment was given last week in which the appeal panel, which consisted of Chief Justice Ivor Archie, Paula Mae-Weekes, Alice Yorke Soo Hon, Peter Jamadar and Nolan Bureaux, quashed both men’s sentences. They said the mandatory sentence, given the facts of their case, was grossly unfair and offensive to the fundamental principles of justice.

The ruling now allows judges to have the discretion when passing sentence on offenders.

The judges invited attorneys to file submissions before they consider new sentences for both men.

The case is expected back in court next week Friday.

Harripersad will return before St Clair-Douglas a week later, on February 21.

He has been in custody since he was found guilty for possession of 336.5 grammes of marijuana on June 25, 2012.

He had opted to have his matter heard before a judge and jury instead of before a magistrate.

Harripersad, of San Francique, who turned 59 years old on Monday, was arrested on November 14, 2000, after police officers staked out his home and saw two men going into his house, handing over money and receiving foil packets.

When the second man left the house, police searched the building and found a plastic bag un­der a mattress. They also found $531 cash.

A nine-member jury found Harripersad guilty before Justice St Clair.