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Magistrate John Ballah.  (File photo)
Magistrate John Ballah. (File photo)
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A magistrate says the guidelines that courts must follow when sentencing people for controlled drugs seem to show more disgust for marijuana than cocaine.

John Ballah made the observation at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court, on Thursday, when he imposed fines on two men for cocaine possession.

Carl Quow, 22, of Chauncey, was fined EC$800 for possession of 4.7 grammes of cocaine  in his South Leeward community on Wednesday.

Junior Haynes, 24, of Green Hill, was fined EC$800 for possession of 3 grammes of the drug at Rose Place, also on Wednesday.

During the sentencing of Quow, the court heard that the value of the cocaine he had in his possession was just about EC$125.

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Ballah said that while the value appeared to be minuscule, cocaine, crack, and controlled drugs have been a scourge on the society and continues to aid in the decay of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“And the sentencing guidelines as it relates to cocaine, when I apply them to cocaine matters, it does not reflect SVG’s abhorrence of cocaine. It really seems to show the abhorrence to cannabis, which I find that disparity unsettling,” Ballah said.

As a result, the magistrate decided to move away from the sentencing guidelines and rely on precedence.

He noted that prosecutor acting Corporal of Police Corlene Samuel had noted that the Serious Offences Court had imposed a certain fine in a similar case as Quow’s.

The magistrate said he would be moving away from the sentencing guidelines and using precedence, noting that the Court of Appeal has confirmed the sentences imposed by the Serious Offences Court.

“As a result, I am finding the defendant EC$800. EC$400 is to be paid forthwith,” Ballah said.

Carl Quow
Carl Quow in an Aug. 23, 2022 photo outside the Serious Offences Court in Kingstown.

Quow had said that he earns EC$1,500 fortnightly working in Buccament Bay. The magistrate gave him  two weeks to pay the  remainder or spend two months in prison.

Earlier, Quow’s lawyer, Carl Williams told the court that the case was one of “another young man falling victim to a meagre 4.7 grammes of the big man thing”.

Williams said that Quow has a criminal record but it did not include convictions for drug offences.

“This is an offence, which, to me, doesn’t require a custodial sentence. He can be fined a reasonable fine and given reasonable time to pay such fine,” the lawyer said.

Quow was nabbed when PC 410 Douglas and other police officers from the Questelles Police Station saw him fidgeting as they were driving by in an unmarked police vehicle in Chauncey.

According to the facts presented by Samuel, Quow consented to a search, during which police found in his left front pocket a transparent bag containing white substance appearing to be cocaine.

Douglas showed the bag to Quow and cautioned him, at which point the defendant snatched the bag from the police officer and tossed it in some nearby bushes.

As he did so, Quow said, “Officer, ah salt dey in the bag.”

The officers retrieved the bag and took Quow to the Questelles Police Station.

Under caution, Quow said, “Officer, big man thing. Is cocaine in the bag. I collected it from a soldier by Massy Store.

Meanwhile, Haynes was arrested in Rose Place about 4:30 p.m. when PC 944 Homer and other officers from the Special Service, and Narcotics units were on mobile patrol in the area.

Sergeant 490 Chandler headed the party and drove the unmarked police vehicle in which the patrol was conducted.

As the vehicle was driving across the bridge in Rose Place, officers observed the defendant and another man sitting behind a car.

The men appeared to be fidgeting and this aroused the officer’s attention.

Chandler and Homer exited the vehicle and Homer saw Haynes remove a small transparent plastic bag from his right front pocket and drop it on the ground.

Homer informed Haynes of her observation and retrieved the bag and its content from the ground.

Homer noticed the bag contained small dime bags containing hard whitish substance resembling crack cocaine.

When cautioned, Haynes replied, “Officer, is mine. I does use it.”

Junior Haynes
Junior Haynes leaves the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023.

The court heard that the value of the 3 grammes of cocaine was EC$95

In handing down his sentence, Ballah noted that Haynes had a previous conviction for cocaine.

He reiterated his view that the sentencing guidelines as they relate to cocaine do not reflect society’s abhorrence for the drug.

He also departed from the sentencing guidelines.

The magistrate asked Haynes if he had any one on him and Haynes said he had EC$500 and his mother was at court.

“Your mother could get more than that?” the magistrate said.

Haynes said, “Yes.”

He told the court that he works at the Sanitation Department, but his wages were inaudible from the public gallery in the court as Haynes seemed to stutter deeply.

Of the EC$1,000 fine, Haynes was ordered to pay EC$700 forthwith or three months in prison and the balance in two weeks or two weeks in prison.

As Haynes was leaving the dock, the magistrate told him:

“Don’t smile. I know you feel you get away with murder, but don’t smile.”

The magistrate ordered the destruction of the cocaine in both cases.