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Cocaine Conviction Thrown Our On Appeal

By LAMECH JOHNSON

Tribune Staff Reporter

ljohnson@tribunemedia.net

THE Court of Appeal has thrown out a local pilot’s cocaine conviction and three-year sentence.

Justices Anita Allen, Stanley John and Neville Adderle, having reviewed the evidence and submissions by attorney Murrio Ducille, and Crown prosecutor Anthony Delaney, announced that they were “of the view that the evidence does not support the convictions of the appellant”.

“There was no evidence of a conspiracy between the appellant and his co-accused to import dangerous drugs into the Bahamas, nor is their evidence sufficient to prove that the appellant had possession of, control of, or knowledge of the presence of the cocaine in the suitcase of his co-accused who was found in possession of the same some distance away from the plane.”

Patrick Pyfrom, 48, who had been charged along with Valentino Collie, 41, was convicted and sentenced by then Magistrate Carolita Bethell on April 4 on four drugs charges – importation of dangerous drugs, conspiracy to import dangerous drugs, possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply and conspiracy to possess dangerous with intent to supply.

It was alleged that they committed these crimes on January 16, 2011, after flying the drugs from Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.

On the day in question, both men were arrested by police at the Lynden Pindling International Airport after disembarking from a private plane.

The cocaine, weighing 41 pounds and valued at $256,000, was found in a suitcase that had been carried off the plane.

Then Deputy Chief Magistrate Bethell addressed the men before sentencing them.

“You’ve breached all the trust bestowed upon you,” she said, noting that as pilots, they had unrestricted access to the airport.

“You chose on this occasion to bring drugs and sought to bypass immigration and customs, using what you have,” she said.

The magistrate, in sentencing them, took into account their clean records and the amount of drugs involved.

She sentenced them to three years imprisonment on each count, to run concurrently, and ordered the $2,548 found and the aircraft itself to be confiscated.

Pyfrom challenged the conviction and sentence in the Court of Appeal and a substantive hearing occurred on Monday, June 24.

Crown prosecutor Anthony Delaney submitted that there was enough circumstantial evidence to warrant a conviction, but Mr Ducille countered by pointing out that the Crown had claimed his client not only knew about the drugs on the plane, but also tried to evade airport officials and failed to hand over a declaration form noting where he and his co-captian were flying from.

The attorney submitted that his client being on board a plane was not proof that he knew of the drugs.

He added that his client could not have tried to evade officials while exiting the plane, because he met officials and police officers on the tarmac when he stepped out of the aircraft.

Mr Ducille said the Crown did not produce any evidence to corroborate the claim that his client did not stop in Long Island.

In yesterday’s ruling, the appellate court noted that while the money found on the plane, the evidence indicating Pyfrom was lying about another passenger being on board, and evidence that he tried to avoid custom officials did raise suspicion, it was not enough.

“To convict a person of an offence, the law requires that the prosecution prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. We do not feel the evidence rose to that standard and we therefore allow the appeal, quash the convictions and sentences of the appellant,” President Allen concluded.

Though Pyfrom could not be reached for comment, The Tribune did speak with Mr Ducille, who noted that with the case behind him, his client will now be seeking to get back his seized plane.

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