Five men who came to Cayman in a canoe with ganja last November were sentenced to prison terms earlier this month after pleading guilty to charges relating to the importation and possession of 633.66 pounds of the controlled substance.
“At no time was it intended for that boat or that ganja or these men to appear in the Cayman Islands,” defence attorney John Furniss told Chief Magistrate Nova Hall. He said the trip was originally to be from Jamaica to Honduras, but “there was a skirmish with the coast guard which led to a change of course and entering Cayman waters”.
The Misuse of Drugs Law makes it clear that a person commits an offence if he has in his possession or is concerned with a controlled drug “with intent that it be supplied, whether by himself or some other person, and whether in the Islands or elsewhere”.
The men and their home addresses were published after their first court appearance: Andrew Anthony Williams, 51, Rocky Point in Clarendon; Gareth Walters, 29 of Belmont, Westmoreland; Elvis Stewart Stanies, 37, of Whitehouse, Westmoreland; David Iziah Roxbourgh, 52, of Belmont, Westmoreland; and Junior Swaby, 22, of Hanover, Negril (Caymanian Compass, 9 November 2011).
Crown counsel Candia James said the Royal Cayman Islands Police Marine Units were on patrol in Cayman waters around 2.30am on Tuesday, 1 November, when they encountered a 32-foot Jamaican canoe about two miles south of Pedro Bluff. Officers aboard the police vessels turned on their lights and the canoe speeded up. However, in a turning manoeuvre, the canoe collided with one of the police vessels.
The men were taken from the canoe onto one of the police vessels and numerous packages were recovered, Ms James indicated. The packages were later opened and the contents tested as ganja.
The maximum sentence for a first offence involving one pound or more of ganja is seven years. The maximum for a second offence is 15 years, Ms James pointed out.
The men pleaded not guilty in January and several trial dates were set. On 24 April, they changed various pleas to guilty. Some accepted being concerned with the possession of ganja with intent instead of straightforward possession.
In the end, it didn’t make much difference because, as the magistrate pointed out, it had not been possible to say which men took which roles in the venture. Further, none had impressed her as having cooperated with authorities. They were entitled to a discount for their guilty pleas, but she was unable to award them more than 20 or 25 per cent (instead of the more usual 33 per cent). She also pointed out that they had been caught red-handed.
Stanies, Swaby and Walters received 38 months each. Williams and Roxbourgh received 43 months each because they had previous offences in Cayman. All five were given concurrent sentences for immigration offences.
The maximum sentence of a first offence involving one pound or more of ganja is seven years.