The St. George’s No.2 Magistrate’s Court on Monday imposed a fine in a combined sum of EC$400, 000.00, on two (2) Canadian nationals for the offence of Trafficking EC1M worth of cocaine.
Magistrate Tahira Gellineau handed down the sentence just after 1.00 p.m on Romario Washington Campbell, a 23-year-old unemployed male from Ajax, Ontario, Canada and Renee Elecia Ally, 25, a waitress from Ontario, Canada following mitigation pleas by their defense counsels, Anselm Clouden and Arley Gill.
Both defendants were nabbed at the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA), with 10 kilograms of the illegal substance last October.
The court ordered them to pay a sum of $200, 000 each, with a default sentence of four (4) years imprisonment.
They were initially indictably charged but subsequent discussions between the criminal defense attorneys and the Police Prosecution team led to a reduction in the charge, allowing for the matter to proceed summarily at the level of the magistracy.
Campbell and Ally found themselves in trouble with the law after their belongings were checked in at the Air Canada counter at MBIA.
Police found the drugs concealed in false compartments of the luggage they carried, which led to them being arrested and charged.
During mitigation, both attorneys noted that their clients, who are first time offenders, have expressed remorse and begged the court for leniency on their behalf.
“This is not an effort to trivialise what has happened (but) the mitigating factors on behalf of Renee is very compelling”, said Attorney Gill, a former Magistrate himself.
He told the court that his 25-year-old client is the mother of a six (6) year old girl and a single parent, who was juggling between three (3) jobs to take care of herself and her family prior to her arrest.
“I can assure you that she would not find herself in another situation like that again…there is zero likelihood that she would re-offend”, he said.
Attorney Gill told the court that both defendants were being “used as mere pawns in a bigger game (while) the real culprits are still outside.
Her mother, Ramona Ally, who took no-pay leave to be able to support her only daughter at the sentencing, was a character witness for the defense and also begged the court for leniency.
Attorney Clouden, who represented Campbell invited the court to “take an unusual approach,” in sentencing, labeling the case as being “quite an unusual” one.
The veteran criminal defence attorney cited several points of law to substantiate his request for his client’s age to be considered among the mitigating factors as well as to be given a discount for the limited time already spent on remand.
Clouden called to the stand a ‘biblical counselor’ who holds sessions at the Richmond Hill Prison once weekly, where both defendants have been serving remand time for close to four (4) months.
The individual, Pastor Jude Hector, who is the man behind the “Adult & Teen Challenge” Non-Profit Organisation, described Campbell as “a young man who is very distressed and sorrowful and has indicated his intention to make a turn around to help others from going down that path.”
There were also reference letters on his behalf from some of his friends and the Pastor of his church in Canada, describing him as a humble individual who is not known to find himself in trouble.
In handing down the sentence, Magistrate Gellineau pointed to the aggravating factors in the matter, singling out the seriousness of the offence in light of the quantity of the substance and that they were caught while attempting to leave MBIA with it.
“Giving the aggravating factors this offence calls for a custodial sentence,” she said, adding that the matter first came to her as an indictable offence.
“You see how “one (1) bad decision can really change the course of our lives,” the female magistrate told the young offenders, who faced a maximum sentence of seven (7) years imprisonment and or a fine of EC$250, 000 or three (3) times the value of the drugs.
Magistrate Gellineau told the young drug offenders the court was being very lenient in sentencing them in light of the seriousness of the offence committed.
She reminded them that they are indeed young and have their whole lives ahead of them and encouraged them to use their experience in Grenada to deter others from making the same mistake.