Moruga man to spend Xmas in jail for growing marijuana

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Marijuana plants. –

A MORUGA man was immediately taken into custody to serve the jail sentences imposed on him by a magistrate in 2017 for cultivating a quantity of marijuana, trafficking and escaping unlawful custody in 2011.

On Monday, Anthony Bartholomew was unsuccessful in convincing the Court of Appeal to spare him a jail sentence in his appeal against conviction and the severity of the sentences.

Bartholomew was sentenced to five years of hard labour for cultivating 32 crates of marijuana seedlings; five years for possession of four feed bags of marijuana which weighed 28.88 kilogrammes; and six months for jumping through a window of his home to escape the police while in handcuffs.

At his appeal, his attorney Dexter Bailey complained that the magistrate failed to take into consideration his previous good character and shifted the burden of proof onto the defence to prove the marijuana was not his. Bailey also argued that the sentence was too severe. Bartholomew received a three-month discount on the time he is to serve because of the time he spent on remand before he could access bail.

Bartholomew, the father of two, a member of the choir in his community and a Bible school student, was ordered to serve the time ordered by the magistrate minus the three months.

On April 11, 2011, he was “caught red-handed” by Moruga police officers, tending to the marijuana seedlings at the back of his house. There were 128 seedlings in all.

The officers took him to his house with a warrant and while searching the premises, they found marijuana being dried on lines in a room. Bartholomew then jumped through a window and ran off into a forested area before he was held.

In his defence, he claimed he was a gardener and denied tending to marijuana seedlings or that any were hanging on a line in his house with a yellow tarpaulin hanging nearby.

He said he was watching television when the police entered the house and handcuffed him, putting a gun to his face.

He also said he was told to sit down, but decided to jump through the window when the officers turned their backs. Bartholomew also said the police shot at him while he was running, and he hid in some bushes before returning home later that evening and turning himself in with the help of a neighbour who was also a police officer.

One of Bartholomew’s witnesses supported his version and said when the police went into the bush, they came out with a yellow tarpaulin with something in it.

Bailey asked the judges to consider imposing a fine instead.

However, in their reasons, Justices of Appeal Alice Yorke-Soo Hon and Mira Dean-Armorer held that the evidence was quite strong, as Bartholomew was found in possession of the drugs and seedlings.

“While we agree that his good character ought to have been raised at trial, we do not agree it deprived him of a fair hearing,” Soo Hon said.

On the reasonable doubt and shifting of the burden of proof, the judges agreed with assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal that the magistrate applied the law properly. While they admitted her words as they related to reasonable doubt were regrettable, the judges said that did not displace the court’s findings.

Soo Hon said the offences were serious and found the sentence for cultivating imposed was “more than adequate.”

They reduced the sentence for trafficking to three years, since the maximum penalty of five years should not have been imposed, as it was Bartholomew’s first offence.