By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Court of Appeal upheld a lower court’s conviction and three year sentence for a pilot found guilty of cocaine possession with intent to supply.
Justices Anita Allen, Stanley John and Neville Adderley, having reviewed the evidence and submissions by attorney Dr Glendon Rolle, and Crown prosecutor Neil Brathwaite, came to the conclusion that the evidence supported 41-year-old Valentino Collie’s conviction for importation of dangerous drugs and possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply.
However, the judges squashed his convictions for conspiracy to import dangerous drugs and conspiracy to possess dangerous drugs with intent to supply having regard to his former co-accused, Patrick Pyfrom, being acquitted of the same charges on appeal last year.
Collie, whose appeal was filed late but who was granted an extension, had his sentence of three years imprisonment from Magistrates Court affirmed.
Collie and Pyfrom were alleged to have committed the four 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, represented by Murrio Ducille, was the first to challenge the conviction and sentence in the Court of Appeal and a substantive hearing occurred on June 24, 2013.
The judges, having reviewed the evidence and arguments by attorney Ducille and 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.”
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 last year.