A drug-accused who on last week Wednesday, Jan. 25 threatened journalists who he assumed wanted to photograph him outside the Serious Offences Court, wept in the dock the following day after pleading guilty to drug possession and trafficking charges.
On Thursday, Jan. 26, the man, Rohan Stowe, a 47-year-old labourer of Richland Park, pleaded guilty to charges that on April 29, 2022, at Peter’s Hope, he had in his possession 58,461 grammes of cannabis with intent to supply and that he had the cannabis for drug trafficking.
Stowe was nabbed around 11:05 p.m. when a party of Rapid Response Unit and Barrouallie police officers, headed by Sergeant 193 De Shong and including PC967 Miller, was conducting stop-and-search duties along the Peter’s Hope Public Road.
Miller found six nylon sacks containing the cannabis in the trunk of the car.
The police cautioned the occupants of the vehicle and Stowe responded, “Is not theirs. Is mine. Somebody give me the wuk to take them Leeward.”
The other two occupants said nothing.
The trio were taken into custody and the two other occupants of the vehicle were discharged, pending further investigation. Stowe was later charged.
In mitigation, Marks told the court his client is employed as a shopkeeper and also does farming.
The lawyer said Stowe immediately admitted possession of the over 125lbs of cannabis.
“He gave a statement to the police in addition to his verbal admission and it basically is the same thing that he said orally: that he was a mule in the transaction,” Marks told the court.
“He met up with some serious financial times during COVID. The shop wasn’t making any money, he had his children to look after, he had his girlfriend to take care of and he decided to take the job to go drop the marijuana and he told the police and cooperated with the police in that regard,” the lawyer told the court.
He said Stowe “didn’t do like some cowards who come before the court and cause the other occupants to be charged as well. He immediately admitted to the offence.”
Marks said that whereas, according to the sentencing guidelines, possession of over 40kgs of cannabis would be considered a category 1 offence, Stowe’s role falls squarely within the lesser category.
He said Stowe got involved in transporting the marijuana because he was “in dire financial straits”.
The lawyer said the defendant assisted the authorities, adding that the offence was motivated by genuinely desperate circumstances.
“The only aggravating feature is the quantity,” Marks said, adding that the court may be swayed in the direction of a custodial sentence because of this.
He said Stowe’s last conviction was in 2012 and for 10 years, had not offended for anything similar.
“A desperate situation forced him back into it,” Marks said and asked the court to consider the recent legislative change that reflects public attitude toward cannabis.
He submitted that because of Stowe’s lesser role and that he was not going to benefit significantly, that the court consider a fine and give him time to make good that fine.
“He has two children, both girls and he lives in Glenside, Mesopotamia and is the main breadwinner for the family,” Marks said.
Meanwhile, prosecutor Station Sergeant of Police Renrick Cato, told the court that he has no objection to a fine.
“It is cannabis; it’s grown here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” the prosecutor said, adding that the court must, however, consider that it is 125lbs of cannabis.
“I think that same amount came before the court before. I don’t know if counsel inquired as to if he has any funds now, but I have no objections to a fine,” Cato said.
Marks said his client would need some time to pay a fine.
In handing down her sentence last Friday, the Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne said that the cannabis was valued at EC$60,000, adding that the court did not apply the punitive measure of tripling the value and basing the fine on this.
She noted that Stowe pleaded guilty, but not at the first opportunity so the court gave a one-fifth discount on his fine, rather than the maximum one-third.
He was fined EC$21,000 for possession of the marijuana and was ordered to pay EC$5,000 by Feb. 28 or three months in prison and the balance of EC$16,000 by Oct. 31 or nine months in prison.
For possession of the drug trafficking charge, he is to pay EC$27,000 by Dec. 15 or 11 months in prison.