Barbadian, St Lucians fined following big ganja bust
Convicted Barbadian drug runner Joel Erad Payne could possibly have been serving his second prison sentence in this country for drug crimes had it not been for a failure by the police to produce his antecedent record during sentencing on Tuesday.
Payne, a.k.a ‘Ole Man,’ was released from prison here in July 2018 after serving six years on conviction of indictable charges of possession of 1,706 pounds of marijuana with intent to supply to another, attempting to export the drug, drug-trafficking and conspiracy to traffic in drugs.
He was at the time said to be 50 years old and living at 2nd Avenue Bank Hall, St Michael, Barbados.
On July 13, 2012, Payne, along with Ryan Corbin, 35, of Cave Hill, St Michael; Shawn Boucher, 36, of Lower Estate, St George; and Devon Hurdle, 38, of Rendezvous, Christ Church were intercepted at Fancy Point aboard the motor vessel ‘Rolling Deep’ during a joint law enforcement operation led by the Royal Barbados Police Force Drug Squad and involved the Barbados Coast Guard and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Coast Guard.
Just over one year after his release from prison here, Payne and St Lucian nationals Jessie St Cyr and Eric Samuel were caught in the northern waters of this country in similar circumstances as in July 2013. A joint operation led by Inspector Nolan Dallaway and involving the Rapid Response Unit (RRU), the drug squad and the local coast guard, intercepted a blue speedboat in the northern waters of this country. A white sack and 16 bales of marijuana, some of which were thrown overboard, were recovered and seized.
When the three non-nationals appeared before the Serious Offences Court last Friday, they pleaded guilty to charges that: (i) on Wednesday November 13, 2019, at Sandy Bay, they attempted to export 350 pounds of cannabis; (ii) on November 13, 2019, at Sandy Bay, they were in possession of 350 pounds of cannabis for the purpose of drug-trafficking; and (iii) on November 13, 2019, at Sandy Bay, they were in possession of 350 pounds of cannabis with intent to supply to another.
They also pleaded guilty to charges that on November 13, 2019, at Sandy Bay, St Vincent and the Grenadines; (i) being prohibited immigrants, they entered the state without passport; (ii) they entered the state at a place other than a port of entry; (iii) they entered the state by boat without consent of an immigration officer; and (iv) they, knowingly and willfully, allowed themselves to land in the state as prohibited immigrants.
They were remanded pending the presentation of the facts of the arrest and the sentencing of the defendants.
Antecedents are important to sentencing, but on Tuesday when the non-nationals returned to court for sentencing the court was only made aware of Payne’s previous conviction when local lawyer Grant Connell rose to make submissions on behalf of his St Lucian clients. He was at the time pushing for financial penalties.
Connell contended that incarceration was not a deterrent because Payne was here six years ago and pleaded guilty drug charges, he was imprisoned and, one year after his release he is back for more of what he previously came for.
Connell said he wanted to be honest with the court, hence he disclosed Payne’s previous conviction.
Connell contended that it costs the state $35,000 to maintain a prisoner annually. He suggested that the non-nationals be fined and deportation orders be made.
Shortly after, Senior Prosecutor Adolphus Delplesche rose and told Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne that an issue touching and concerning the matter before the court and he would like to have a discussion with her and Connell. He made an application for the matter to be stood down.
The Chief Magistrate granted the application, suspending the sitting and they went to her chambers.
When the sitting resumed minutes later, the Senior Prosecutor told the court the first thing he wanted to say was that he “felt really embarrassed” when it took the defense counsel to inform the court that the Barbadian defendant had a previous conviction and served six years in this country.
“For me, it is very embarrassing… This man has been in custody since the 13th (of November, 2019),” he said, indicating that the arresting officer had enough time to investigate the background of the defendants.
“So, I must thank the defense for their honesty,” he also said, noting that without Connell’s disclosure of the fact, the Barbadian national would have been entered in the court’s record as a virgin to the law.
“That having been said, your honour, I am not looking for a custodial penalty,” Delplesche said sharply and sat down.
Chief Magistrate Browne-Matthias said she, too, was concerned that the matter of Payne’s antecedent was raised by the defense and not the prosecution. She said that as a result it will go to the benefit of the Barbadian defendant.
The Chief Magistrate said that while she commended corporal Caesar of the RRU for the arrest, the police need to understand that there must be further investigations done to uncover all stories.
The three non-nationals were each fined $38,700 to be paid forthwith or three years in prison for the possession with intent to supply to another charge. On the charge of attempting to export the drug, they were each given suspended sentences. They were sentenced to three years but the sentences were suspended for three years. The trafficking charge was withdrawn by the prosecution.
On the matters relating to the breaching of the immigration regulations, the St Lucians, who did not have any form of identification, were each fined $300 on the charge of entering the state without passport. Payne had a fisherman’s identification card. The Chief Magistrate noted that it was not a travel document. She, however, discharged him on that matter.
On the charge of entering the state at a place other than at a port of entry, the three were each fined $300. For entering the state without the consent of an immigration officer, they were fined $400 each. And, for knowingly and willfully entering the state as prohibited immigrants they were also fined $400.
The fines for breaching the immigration regulations were ordered to be paid forthwith. In default, they faced imprisonment for one month.
The sentences were ordered to run concurrently.