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Lucresha Nanton, seen outside the Serious Offences Court on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, was jailed for two years and 10 months for possession of 60kgs of cocaine.
Lucresha Nanton, seen outside the Serious Offences Court on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, was jailed for two years and 10 months for possession of 60kgs of cocaine.

Prosecutor Renrick Cato, on Monday, told Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne that the public is anxiously awaiting the sentence of the court in the case in which Lucresha Nanton, a nurse, had almost 60 kilos of cocaine in her possession at the Owia Clinic last year.

“This is an offence that the general public is looking forward to,” Cato, a station sergeant of police, told the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court.

“It is not the duty of the court to please the public but we must take note of the public interest at hand as it relates to this matter,” the prosecutor said.

He noted a medical report submitted by defence counsel Ronald Marks but rejected his argument that a suspended sentence is applicable in the case.

Marks argued that Nanton’s naivety was taken advantage of and that she was not motivated by financial reward, but Cato rejected this, saying Nation knew the character of the people who brought the cocaine to the clinic. The prosecutor questioned whether she risked her job for nothing.

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On Friday, at the Serious Offences Court, in Kingstown, Nanton, 35, of Owia, pleaded guilty to a charge that on Jan. 22, 2022, at Owia, she had in her possession a controlled drug, to wit 59,939 grammes of cocaine with intent to supply.

She pleaded not guilty to possession of the drug for the purpose of drug trafficking and Cato asked the chief magistrate to adjourn the matter until Monday so the prosecution could decide on a course of action.

On Monday, after both sides agreed on the facts, the prosecutor withdrew the drug trafficking charges.

The facts, as presented by the prosecutor, are that on Jan. 22, 2022, police officers from the Rapid Response, Special Patrol, and Narcotics Units, acting on information, went to Owia to execute a warrant at Nanton’s home and the Owia Clinic, where she was the nurse in charge.

Corporal 615 Williams read and showed the warrant to her and she consented to the search.

Nothing illegal was found at Nanton’s home and she was invited to the Owia Clinic, where Corporal 615 Williams asked her if she had anything to declare.

Nanton said no and the officer conducted a search at the clinic and found nothing illegal.

They then left.

Lucresha Nanton
The defendant, Lucresha Nanton uses and umbrella to hide her face from journalists as she leaves the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court on Monday, Jan. 30, 2022.

‘Officer, me wah talk to me lawyer’

However, on their way back to Kingstown, the officers received certain information and returned to the Owia Clinic.

The officer informed Nanton that they intended to conduct another search of the clinic and she consented to it and opened the nurses’ quarters.

Williams observed a locked room in the nurses’ quarters and asked Nanton for the keys to the room.

The nurse said she did not have the key.

The police officers used force to open the door and they saw a brown barrel with a white covering which was next to a bed.

Williams opened the barrel in the presence of the defendant and other police officers and there were medical supplies on the top of the barrel.

As Williams proceeded to remove the medical supplies in the presence of Police Constables Bibby and John, Nanton said, “Officer, me wah talk to me lawyer.”

The search of the barrel continued, and Williams found a black traveling bag and three large black garbage bags containing several black rectangular taped packages with transparent plastic around them.

Williams observed that the packages had sand on them. She then opened them in Nanton’s presence and saw solid white substance resembling cocaine.

Williams cautioned Nanton, who replied, “Officer, them is not mines. “

The packages were counted in Nanton’s presence and amounted to 54.

Williams wrote down in her diary what Nanton had said and asked Nanton to sign the same, which she did.

Nanton was arrested on suspicion of possession of a controlled drug.

Cato said other people were taken into custody to assist with the investigation and were subsequently discharged.

On Jan. 23, 2022, Nanton was taken to the Narcotics Base, where the drug was weighed in her presence and amounted to 59,939 grammes. They were also

sampled in her presence

On Jan. 24, she was electronically interviewed and the following day, she told police she would give a true version of the incident in writing. That statement was recorded by means of a caution statement.

On April 19, 2022, Williams arrested and charged Nanton for the offences of possession of controlled drugs and drug trafficking.

In a statement to police, Nanton narrated what transpired and the role she played as it relates to the drug getting into the clinic.

“She was the person in charge of the clinic at the time. She also indicated that she had knowledge of the barrel and its contents at the clinic,” Cato said.

He informed the court that Nanton had no previous conviction.

The exhibits were not in court and Cato informed Marks that they are available for viewing at the Narcotics Base and were not brought to court, for security reasons.

Marks told the court that he had indicated to the prosecution that he wouldn’t require the exhibits in court that day.

Ronnie Marks
Defence Counsel Ronald “Ronnie” Marks in a Nov. 16, 2021 photo.

‘manipulated by a close family member’

In mitigation, Marks noted Nanton’s age and told the court that she graduated from St. Joseph’s Convent in Kingstown, after which she underwent training as a nurse.

She graduated from the nursing programme in 2009 and immediately was awarded a contract and worked as a nurse in Trinidad for 10 years.

The lawyer told the court that Nanton was diagnosed with a medical condition six years ago, and because of its effect, she did not renew her contract, option to return to St. Vincent to start a family immediately.

He said she was working as a nurse up to the date of her arrest and prior to this, had never gotten into trouble with the law, not even a traffic violation.

Marks said Nanton was before the court “because of a very bad decision.

“Without going into too much detail, she was manipulated by a close family member. She at no time knew what it was. However, in the circumstances she should have suspected,” the lawyer told the court.

“She said to the police at the very beginning that when they took the items from the barrel, it was the first time she was seeing cocaine in her life. She allowed herself to be manipulated and wound up making one of the worst decisions of her life.”

Marks said the only aggravating feature of the case is the quantity of cocaine.

He said that regarding her role, when contrasted with the sentencing guidelines, Nanton performed a limited function and was even less than a drug mule.

The lawyer said she acted though coercion or naivety, had no influence at all in those above in the chain and had very little knowledge if any at all of the understanding of the scale of the operation.

Marks said that bearing in mind that the drug is cocaine and would be treated with the seriousness that it should be, he was suggesting a starting point of 2.45 years in prison.

He said Nanton pleaded guilty at the first opportunity after the drugs were tested, as the fence was making sure that the substance was, in fact, what it was alleged to be.

The lawyer said Nanton “cooperated with the police in ways that I can’t even mention and that should be taken into consideration when applying the sentence.

“This has had a significant impact on Ms Nation mentally. She has to undergo counselling and because of the medical condition, it has worsened the effect,” Marks said.  

“In the circumstance where we had the full cooperation, clean record, guilty plea, we ask that the court also take into cooperation the medical condition and, in particular, the very last line, where the doctor stresses that it is of the utmost importance that she stays in a stress-free environment.”

He asked the court to bear in mind Nanton’s relative youth and that she cooperated with police fully.

“This should be encouraged and not discouraged,” he said and asked the court to suspend any custodial sentence it is minded to impose.

The lawyer said this would “reflect the mitigating circumstances and the fact that she was manipulated into this position and attempted to make amends as best as she could by putting her life in danger and assisted.”

Renrick Cato
Prosecutor Station Sergeant of Police Renrick Cato in a January 2022 photo. (iWN file photo)

Prosecution, defence split over defendant’s role in case

However, the prosecutor said that what caught his attention was Nanton’s reaction when the police asked about the key to the room and when they opened the barrel.

“And the thing is, it is always important to note that these kinds of offences, the facts started off by saying ‘acting on information’,” Cato said.

“That, too, is always important,” the prosecutor said and asked the court to be mindful of the street value of the cocaine – EC$1.8 million.

He noted that Nanton pleaded guilty, but added that the court can triple the value of the cocaine and impose a fine based on this.

The prosecutor further noted that the magistrates court can only impose a fine of up to EC$500,000 and a maximum term of imprisonment of seven years.

“Cocaine is not grown in SVG and we are well aware of how it is destroying our youth,” Cato said.

He said the sentence should be based on the seriousness of the offence, the quantity and value of the drug, the prevalence of these types of offences, and the message the court is sending to the general public as it relates to sentencing.

Cato invited the court to inquire of the defence if Nanton had the means to pay a fine.

Marks and Cato disagreed over the role that Nanton had played and asked Cato to provide evidence that Nanton has played a significant role, and hence should be punished more severely.

Cato responded:

“… when it comes to these, I try my best not to call names and I will keep on doing it because I am aware. But counsel raised it as to why I said what I said. Here comes a nurse in charge of a clinic …, these bags arrive at the clinic during the night for storekeeping.

“And if it was really medical supplies, why were they not placed where they normally would be. They were placed in a specific room in the nurses’ quarters and the room is locked.

“And the persons who brought them are well known by the defendant. Well-known, character wise. I say that to say, [60] kilos of cocaine at the clinic, the defendant in charge – it’s like I’m putting my work on hold, at risk for few, for [60] kilos of cocaine.

“I will not go into details as to what was said, but some awareness and understanding of the scale of operation.”

Cato reiterated that the moment the police opened the barrel, Nanton said she wanted to speak to her lawyer.

“You don’t know what’s in the barrel but, ‘I want to talk to my lawyer.’ If it was medical supplies, why you want to talk to your lawyer? You are in charge of the clinic but you don’t know where that particularly key is. It is for that reason why I asked to place it in significant and no lesser role,” the prosecutor told the court.  

“If she is unable to pay a fine, the court is left with one other option, a custodial sentence,” he said.

Marks, however, maintained that the prosecution had not provided any evidence to support its arguments that Nanton was motivated by financial gain.

The chief magistrate said the court would assess that.

Rechanne BRwone
Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne, seen here in a 2020 file photo.

Medical records timeline out of sync  

In her comments, the chief magistrate said that she had seen the medical document submitted to the court.

Browne, however, added that she is also aware of when Nanton was arrested, when she appeared before the court, and when she “made certain reports to medical personnel that were not substantiated by any previous documents to support her diagnosis.

“She was arrested in April and visited a doctor in August,” Browne said.

She said Nanton’s offence was a very serious one

These are very serious offences. You gave facts and the quantity of cocaine shouldn’t be taken lightly.

The chief magistrate said the court always has to send the appropriate message when sentencing defendants.

“Cocaine is wretched and destroying the young and not-so-young. The court is minded to make sure and consider all that was said by defence and prosecution to come up with the appropriate sentence.”

Browne also said she was mindful of the restraint on the penalties that a magistrate’s court can impose.

She noted that the street value of the drug is well over the fine that her court can impose.

“The court would like to see the exhibits and get an appreciation of the packaging and the quantum,” she said, adding that the court would visit the Narcotics Base to see them in the presence of the defendant and then would give further particulars and direction then.

Nanton’s bail continues. 

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