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Drugs Sentence Reduced On Appeal

By LAMECH JOHNSON

Tribune Staff Reporter

ljohnson@tribunemedia.net

A MAN who pleaded guilty to possessing $750,000 worth of cocaine and marijuana told Court of Appeal judges yesterday he should have received a lesser sentence than the mandatory minimum of four years.

Justices Christopher Blackman, Stanley John and Abdulai Conteh agreed with Kendal Hepburn’s grounds for appeal – that his immediate guilty plea should have reduced his sentence in Magistrates Court, notwithstanding the quantity of drugs involved.

Hepburn, who has already served six months of the four-year prison term, had his sentence reduced to three years and six months from the date of his April 26, 2013 conviction.

At his arraignment before then Deputy Chief Magistrate Carolita Bethell, Hepburn pleaded guilty to four drug charges: conspiracy to possess and possession of dangerous drugs (cocaine) with intent to supply, and conspiracy to possess and possession of dangerous drugs (marijuana) with intent to supply.

Hepburn received the mandatory minimum of four years at Her Majesty’s Prison while his then co-accused 48-year-old Calvin Rolle, of Pinewood Gardens, and 27-year-old Tristan Black, of Freeport, Grand Bahama, received a November trial date after pleading not guilty to the charges.

Person convicted of such charges, according to the amended law of November 2011, face between four-seven years imprisonment.

In yesterday’s proceedings, crown prosecutors Patrick Sweeting and Ambrose Armbrister argued that the appellate court had previously upheld convictions and mandatory sentences for lesser amounts of cocaine and marijuana.

They said the minimum sentence of four years on the charge was right in the circumstances.

However, the judges noted that the minimum in law was the starting point for the lower court.

“Did he (Hepburn) get any discount for his early plea?” Justice John asked.

Justice Conteh added that every sentence should bear in mind certain factors, including “whether the accused wasted the court’s time”.

“The appellant took responsibility for the offence, being charged with two co-accused,” Justice Blackman said.

“We’re going to grant the extension of time and we allow the appeal against sentence to be reduced from four years to three years and six months from the date of conviction,” the judge said.

“Learn your lesson,” the judge warned the 39-year-old Mackey Street man.

“Don’t go moving drugs to give you a job. All it will give you is a record,” Justice Blackman said.

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