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Court cuts 2 drug convicts sentences
The Court of Appeal has agreed to five-year reductions in the 25-year prison terms of two convicted drug traffickers. Although Uraz Mohammed and Otto Lancaster had both been sentenced to the 25-year minimum sentence as prescribed by Section 5(5) of the Dangerous Drugs Act, the Appeal Court agreed with their attorneys that the court had the power to vary the sentence. The three judges relied on a landmark judgment delivered last December, when a special five-member court ruled that the minimum sentence was unconstitutional, as it took away a judge’s discretion in the sentencing procedure.
As a result, they decided the appropriate sentence for each man should have been 20 years in prison. In addition to his sentence, Mohammed also challenged his conviction, saying the judge had failed to direct the jury properly on a dozen issues, including inconsistencies in police evidence and a prosecutor’s alleged prejudicial comments, that were vital to the fairness of the trial.
However, the three judges—Paula Mae-Weekes, Alice Yorke-Soo Hon and Rajendra Narine—agreed that Mohammed’s claims were without merit. Lancaster, 42, of Argyle Street, Belmont, was convicted almost nine months after Mohammed. He was represented by Keith Scotland and Mohammed by Pamela Elder, SC, and Richard Mason. Senior Counsel Gilbert Peterson and Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) George Busby represented the State.