Despite accepting Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley’s offer to head his legal team for the impending lawsuit to be filed by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, former attorney general Ramesh Law
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Smiles as two men get reduced jail time
Two convicted drug traffickers scored a major legal victory yesterday after the Court of Appeal reduced their 25-year sentences by almost half. In an oral judgment delivered in the Hall of Justice, a special five-member appeal panel led by Chief Justice Ivor Archie said Barry Francis and Roger Hinds should serve a total of 27 years’ imprisonment with hard labour.
While Francis’s sentence was reduced to 15 years, he is expected to be released in less than seven, as the time he spent in remand while awaiting trial, and after being convicted, was deducted from his sentence. Hinds is expected to be released several months before his accomplice as almost six years that he has already spent in prison was also deducted from his adjusted 12-year sentence. Both men had grins on their faces as they were escorted out of the court by police assigned to the Court and Process Branch.
Each man was initially sentenced to the mandatory minimum sentence under the Dangerous Drugs Act, when they were convicted of trafficking 1.6 kilos of marijuana in May 2010. The legislation states that someone convicted of drug trafficking is liable to imprisonment for a term of 25 years to life, and to a fine of $100,000 or in default an additional 15 years’ imprisonment.
But in a landmark judgment delivered two weeks ago, Archie and his colleagues struck down the statutory sentence, saying it was unlawful and unconstitutional. The other members of the panel were Paula Mae-Weekes, Alice Yorke Soo Hon, Peter Jamadar and Nolan Bereaux.
How the court ruled
In the five-page executive summary of the judgment, Archie said: “An accused must be punished for the crime he commits. But not only must his guilt or innocence be fairly considered, his punishment must also be fairly applied to the facts and circumstances of his case.”
Archie described the mandatory sentence as “arbitrary and capricious,” as it did not allow for judicial discretion in adapting a sentence to the exact nature of the crime.
He also said it was oppressive because it was excessive and wholly disproportionate to the actual crime.
The duo’s legal team included Jagdeo Singh, Amerelle Francis, Daniel Khan and Hasine Shaikh. The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) had been given permission by the court to intervene in the appeal and as an interested party, it provided submissions on the sentencing issue. The CBA’s legal team included Senior Counsel Pamela Elder and Sophia Chote and attorneys Rajiv Persad, Michelle Solomon and Raphael Morgan.