The nurse who had 60 kilogrammes of cocaine in her possession at the Owia Clinic on Jan. 22, 2022 has been jailed for two years and 10 months.
Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne handed down the sentence on Lucresha Nanton, 35, on Friday, at the Serious Offences Court, in Kingstown, one week after she pleaded guilty to the charge of possession of 59,939 grammes of cocaine with intent to supply.
Nanton, however, pleaded not guilty to a drug trafficking charge related to the same amount of drugs.
On Monday, at the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court, where the chief magistrate presided, Cato prosecutor Station Sergeant of Police Renrick Cato withdrew the drug trafficking charge.
In handing down the sentence, Browne said she had consulted the sentencing guidelines and assessed the category of the offence based on the quantum and the role that the defendant played.
Browne said that the court had assessed the circumstances and concluded that Nanton’s role was significant.
The court, therefore, established a starting sentence of 3.5 years, or half of the statutory maximum at the magisterial level.
The chief magistrate said that the aggravating features of the offence are that the drug was well concealed in a barrel covered with medical supplies in the nurses’ quarters at the clinic.
The nurses quarters were locked and the key unavailable and police had to break into the room.
Browne said that having perused the caution statement, the court concluded that Nanton had attempted to shift blame for the drug.
Different people were taken into custody as part of the investigation, based on statements Nanton gave.
Browne said that as the staff nurse for the area, Nanton had a position of trust, responsibility and authority.
The court also said that the time when the cocaine was taken to the clinic was well calculated and planned.
She said that the court had considered the element of coercion and persuasion as the people involved were relatives of individuals who the defendant knows well.
The court concluded that the aggravating features outweighed the mitigating and six months were added to the sentence.
The court found no aggravating feature of the offender, noting that she had no previous convictions and there was an obvious show of remorse.
The court, therefore, deducted four months from the sentence.
The chief magistrate noted that she pleaded guilty but not at the earliest opportunity and not immediately after the drug was tested.
The court took off nine months from the sentence, leaving Nanton to serve a sentence of two years and 10 months.
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.
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. “
In mitigation, defence counsel Ronald “Ronnie” Marks had 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.”
The court, however, rejected the submission about Nanton’s medical condition, saying that she had gone to see a doctor four months after being charged.