A 22-year-old mother of three who decided to retail cocaine to help with her income has earned a significant fine rather than the profit she was hoping her illegal activities would have generated.
On Monday (today), at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court, Senior Magistrate Colin John ordered the woman, Terrica Patterson, of Layou, to pay a fine of EC$5,000 in three months for possession of 21 grammes of cocaine for the purpose of drug trafficking.
On a charge that she had the drugs in her possession with intent to supply it to another, the magistrate bonded Patterson for one year in the sum of EC$2,000 or one year imprisonment.
Patterson pleaded guilty to both charges, admitting that she committed the offences on Sunday, Jan. 15, at her home in Layou, where she lives with her three children, the youngest of whom is 7 months old.
She cried as she responded to questions from the magistrate about why she had chosen to get involved in drugs.
Moments earlier, the prosecutor, acting Corporal of Police Corlene Samuel had noted that Patterson had the drug in a home in which children live and that she had hidden it in her grandmother’s bedroom.
“Please have mercy on me, your honour,” Patterson said as tears streamed down her face. “I am not working. Only my last baby has support and not the other two.”
She further told the court that her boyfriend started working “at the port in town” last week.
“Do you realise this is a serious offence?” the magistrate told Patterson, who at times spoke so softly that her responses were inaudible from the public gallery.
“Why did you place it in your grandmother’s room?” John further asked.
“From my kids,” the defendant responded.
She said she had not been successful so far in her attempts to get a job and that if she goes to prison, there would be “nobody” to take care of her children.
Patterson told the court that if she is fined, her father, who is in England, and her mother, a security guard, would help her to pay.
Patterson’s response was inaudible when the magistrate asked her where she had gotten money to buy cocaine.
“Why did you not buy snacks or an icebox to sell more useful things? Why did you buy cocaine?” the magistrate asked.
Presenting the facts, Police Constable 196 Constantine said that on Jan. 14, about 6:15 a.m., officers from the rapid response, narcotics, and special services units as well as the Layou Police Station executed a search warrant at Patterson’s home in respect of controlled drugs.
Corporal 615 Williams headed the party, which, on arrival, met Patterson at home with her family.
Williams asked Patterson in the presence of PC 242 Baptiste if she had anything to declare.
Patterson did not reply.
While searching the bedroom of Patterson’s grandmother, Donna Dover, in the presence of Baptiste, Williams found a black and white polka dot purse with a white strap on Dover’s bed.
The officer opened the bag in the presence of Dover and Baptiste and found that it contained a black bag which contained a transparent plastic bag with four portions of hard whitish substance resembling cocaine.
Williams showed the content to Dover and pointed out the offence of possession of controlled drugs to her then cautioned her.
Dover replied: “Officer, the bag belongs to my granddaughter, Terrica Patterson. I don’t know about any cocaine.”
Williams, Baptiste and Dover went into the living room with the bag and Dover pointed out Patterson, who, when cautioned, replied, “Is mine.”
Patterson and Dover were arrested on suspicion of possession of cocaine and taken to the Narcotics Base, where they both volunteered statements.
In her statement, Patterson told the officers that the drug belongs to her.
Paterson agreed with the facts and when the magistrate asked her why she had gotten involved in drugs, a man in the gallery said, “Because she has three children.”
A police officer immediately escorted him from the courtroom because of his disruptive action.
In her submission on sentencing, Samuel told the court that in her caution statement, Patterson said that she had bought the cocaine to sell over and it was her first-time doing so.
“That puts her in a leading role. That puts her in a significant role, motivated by financial gain,” the prosecutor said, adding that while the quantity did not warrant a custodial sentence, it was still “at a high level”.
Samuel said the aggravating features of the offence included the fact that there were three small children in the home and the police found the cocaine in a purse on a bed.
“She left it exposed to the children, which could cause potential harm,” Samuel told the court, adding that children at that age tend to pick up things and put them in their mouths.
The prosecutor further noted that Patterson was selling the drug, to the danger of others.
She said the lack of sophistication was a mitigating feature.
Samuel saw no aggravating features of the offender, noting that Patterson had no previous convictions, was of a young age and had three children, all under the age of 6.
The prosecutor said the youngest child was still breastfeeding and further noted Patterson’s early guilty plea.
Before handing down his sentence, the magistrate said he agreed with the prosecutor’s application of the sentencing guidelines to the case.
“It is a serious offence, Miss Patterson,” John said.
“You are still relatively young so you can’t say that the system did not give you a second chance, Miss Patterson. I will not send you to prison now,” the magistrate further said.