Disparity in sentencing
I refer to an article published in Stabroek News’ Feb 7, 2013 edition captioned “‘Burning a joint’ gets vendor two-year jail term.” Below I provide a summary of the facts of the case as reported:
Plantain chip vendor, George Chase, was found smoking cannabis on Feb 4, 2013.
Mr Chase, who was unrepresented by counsel, appeared in the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court to answer the charge of possession.
Mr Chase offered the following explanation for his actions: He felt like “burning a joint.” Mr Chase said, “is nah no big, big joint, is a small joint.”
Mr. Chase pleaded guilty to the charge of possession of narcotics for the purpose of trafficking.
The prosecutor stated that Mr. Chase had no previous antecedents (criminal).
Mr Chase however told the court that he was once charged with wounding in Berbice but that the matter had been dismissed.
Mr Chase was sentenced to two years in jail and fined $5000.
I wish to highlight the following observations:
It was not reported what quantity of cannabis Mr Chase was found to have in his possession.
I assume that it was Mr Chase’s economic circumstances that prevented him from retaining legal counsel.
Mr Chase displayed significant personal integrity by his correction of the prosecutor that he did have a previous encounter with the law.
Mr Chase pleaded guilty to “possession of narcotics for the purpose of trafficking” although he said it was a small quantity.
One wonders what difference in severity of punishment exists between possession of narcotics for the purpose of trafficking versus possession of narcotics for the purpose of personal use? Would qualified legal counsel have helped Mr Chase secure a lesser sentence?
I refer to another article (SN, Feb 9, 2013) captioned “36 kilos of cocaine, ammo, found in Ogle house” which stated:
“Last November, 300 kilos of cocaine worth approximately $10M was found in a container of packaged soap powder at the John Fernandes terminal.
“Exporter Dennis Jones took ownership of the drugs and was sentenced to four years in prison.” [emphasis mine]
Editor, in my layman’s opinion, this disparity in sentencing ought to inform us that what we have is a dysfunctional justice system.