Drug law amendments bring stiffer penalties

| 14/10/2009

(CNS): Owing to a need to make clarifications and amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Law (2009 Revision) based on recent rulings by the Privy Council, those tried for drug offences in the Grand Court now face stiffer penalties if convicted. Serious dealing offences for second time offenders tried in Cayman’s higher court will now attract a maximum jail term of 35 years up from 30 years. Solicitor General Cheryl Richards presented the amendments to the Legislative Assembly, clarifying the offences which can be tried in Grand Court or Summary Court and the subsequent penalty increases.

Standing in for the attorney general on Wednesday, Richards explained to the House that the Privy Council had recently ruled that there was a need to clarify which drug offences were considered category C offences and which were B and in turn which of those offences a defendant charged with could elect to take to the Grand Court instead of being heard in Summary Court.

Richards explained that, at present, because of the way offences are listed a drug courier caught and charged would have the right to elect for a Grand Court trial. However, the person who had met that courier and taken possession of the drugs would not have that right and would be tried in the Summary Court and likely face the same potential penalty. She noted that it is unusual for there notto be difference in the maximum sentences that a convicted offender would face when tried in a higher court.

Richards explained therefore that the amendment now lists in the law all possible drug offences, the category, either C or B, and the maximum penalties which offenders will face. In the case of the more sever offences, such as importation or production of hard drugs which previously attracted a maximum sentence of 30 years in either court, those now tried in Grand Court will, upon conviction, attract a maximum sentence of 35 years.

Noting the solicitor general’s clarity of presentation, Anthony Eden, the opposition member for Bodden Town, said he was pleased to see an increase in the penalties.  “I have always said that dealing with the problem of drugs is one of the most important challenges in the community,” he said, adding that he had no pity for those who went to jail for selling drugs to our children.

The amendments were supported on both sides of the house and passed into the law.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This IS a joke, right?  So adding an additional five years on an already draconian sentence is going to be a big deterrent to drug abuse and distribution? What land of fantasy do our lawmakers live in for god’s sake? 

    Is this an exercise to make the populace believe that we are now "really doing someting" about drug abuse? Yeah! Now we are gettin’ tough! Riiighht…

    Wouldn’t it be a lot better to step up prevention, juvenile intervention, family oriented measures, increase social reform programmes, institute better investigation and promote more efficient prosecution and put more of the suppliers away for even 10 years than trying to make believe you are accomplishing anything meaningful by increasing sentences? Oh, I forgot, that takes work and a government dedicated to stamping out the problem in effective ways. Silly me.

    Regardless of the sentence, it is already illegal to consume or sell drugs, no? So why are we not catching the bad guys (the dealers) and putting them behind bars? I can not see any point in increasing the sentence if enforcement is impotent. If enforcement and existing anti-drug measures were not ineffective we would not have the prevailing drug problem in the first place.

    In my mind the cash that will be spent housing an offender for a potential additonal 5 years would be better spent on preventing the crime in the first place.

  2. A Lone Voice in the Dark says:

    This all depends on a Judge imposing the sentence. The judges here are the most lenient judges I have ever seen.  They accept so much rubbish from defendants it really is untrue. 

    • slowpoke says:

       That is an interesting opinion, considering that Cayman consistently has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world.

      • Anonymous says:

        Only because it is falsely based on a population of 45,000 and ignores the effect of drug shipments through our waters and a large transient workforce (disproportionate number of males in the 20-30 year old bracket most likely to commit serious crimes.)

        • Anonymous says:

          I am all for demographics, but the reality is that the vast majority of the Northward and Fairbanks population is Caymanian.  The (shelved) study clearly indicates that the inmates are primarily raised by teenage/young mothers, without the support of the fathers, low educational level, poverty, etc.

          I have lived in Australia, Europe and North America.  Other than the US, I would much rather be charged with the same crime in one of those jurisdictions than in Cayman, as those judges would be MUCH more lenient than here.

          I have had the opportunity to speak to visiting judges.  They inevitably (based on local precedents) have given much harsher sentences here than in their home jurisdictions.

  3. Anonymous says:

    They need to change the Prison first and turn it into a place where these criminals don’t want to go.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Ummmm… don’t mean to be dumb but don’t we have to secure a conviction first? I guess cutting back on legal aid and the ability to secure counsel will help improve the odds.

  5. Anonymous says:

    It is disgusting how the judicial system here will lock someone away for 35 years for selling drugs but for 10 for murder! I understand that drugs are the root of most evil on this island but you would think that someone who directly takes the life of another should have more severe punishment than someone selling $100 worth of drugs! If you are arrested for consumption of a controlled drug you serve the same time a murderer and at the end of the day you really havent hurt anyone. While I do not use illegal drugs I am aware that there are many working class people who do & who take care of their families and go to work everyday – why should such people serve more time if caught than that a killer????

    • Anonymous says:

      Are you serious ?  A man selling drugs,  and I am NOT refering to ganja hurts many more than one person.  He might as well have commited murder.  I agree murder is horrendous but if you take a good luck at what happens to someone who uses drugs and also their families you would not say those who sell drugs are not hurting anyone.  Consumption is one thing but you are saying that selling drugs nets a longer prison term than murder.  Well,in essence it is the same thing.  Just that selling drugs takes a life a little slower than an outright murder.  But then again, it directly affects more than one life.

  6. Anonymous says:

    " What this stupid Government need to do is to increase the maximum jail term for MURDERERS and SEX OFFENDERS!  "That’s what they all need to do instead of worrying about tightening up on drug related cases."

  7. slowpoke says:

    Oh!  More Punishment – if only we would have thought of this before, all our problems would be solved.

    Now we get to host individuals for another five years @ CI$60,000.00 per annum (i.e. + CI$ 300,000.00) for absolutely no purpose (at this rate Martin Bridger was a bargain).

    Apparently, law makers have severe dyslexia and are unable to read the facts.  Incarceration does not work and is a total waste of money (if it were a deterrent, the US would be drug free).

    Also, I am very disappointed in my friend Tony choosing this issue to finally speak in the LA, but unfortunately on the wrong side of the argument.

  8. ready to run says:

    Lets see…$50,000X35 years X how many each year? maybe 10?  What else could that 17 million be spent on.  We will never know because Cayman will be broke long before that.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am prepared to offer a 10 by 6 concrete box and 3 meals a day to Government  for less than half what they spend now. Really, it should not cost more than 20,000 a year. Many honest hard working individuals find a way to survive on that – so should our prisoners. In fact – as outsourcing is such a hiot topic, I bet Cuba would take them for 20K a head. 

  9. Anonymous says:

    Great, but what about the laws for taken a life.  Am tired of the courts giving someone 5 or 10 years for taken the life of someone.