Barry Francis and Roger Hinds, who were each sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted of drug possession for the purpose of trafficking in 2010, had their sentences reduced at the Court of Appeal yesterday after the court ruled the mandatory minimum sentence was disproportionate and excessive.
The five-member panel of judges—comprising Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Justices of Appeal Paula Mae Weekes, Peter Jamadar, Alice Yorke-Soo Hon and Nolan Bereaux—reduced the sentences of Francis and Hinds to 15 and 12 years, respectively.
The men had challenged their initial sentences, which were passed under Section 5 (5) of the Dangerous Drugs Act which states that people convicted of drug trafficking were liable to imprisonment for 25 years to life and a fine of $100,000.
Through their attorneys—Jagdeo Singh, Larry Lalla and Amerelle Francis—they argued that the legislation took away the discretionary power of the sentencing court and, as such, gave rise to an infringement of the separation of powers between the judiciary and the legislature.
Singh had argued that the section did not intend for anyone, regardless of the quantum of drugs seized, to be sentenced to 25 years in prison.
He said it was up to the discretion of the court to decide what sentence should be imposed up to 25 years.
On January 31, the judges upheld the argument put forward, stating the section had in fact removed judicial discretion and imposed a penalty that was “arbitrary, capricious and oppressive”, and was in breach of the Constitution.
Despite Francis and Hinds being sentenced to 15 and 12 years, respectively, Francis will serve 11 years’ hard labour, while Hinds will serve ten years and two months, gaining credit for time already served.