(CMR) Three Jamaican men who received sentences ranging from 51 to 73 months after they pleaded guilty to drug trafficking last year lost an appeal to have the sentences overturned when the matter was heard in the Court of Appeal last month.
The oral judgment was issued on April 23, while the written judgment was released on May 19.
Linton Pillarchie, Geranimo Vaughans, and Jerry Cranston pleaded guilty to the illicit drug trafficking in ganja contrary to section 19(2)(a) of the Misuse of Drugs Act (2017 Revision) on April 9, 2020. Justice Cheryll Richards sentenced Pillarchie to imprisonment for 73 months, while Vaughans and Cranston were sentenced to 51 months each. The men had appealed the sentences on grounds that they should have been given a one-third sentence reduction because of their guilty plea.
Reports are that on March 12, 2020, the men were seen by a Joint Marine and Air Support Unit of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service in a 28-foot Jamaican canoe owned by Geranimo Vaughans. It was located about 38 nautical miles from East End in Grand Cayman.
When the police helicopter approached, the men threw packages of ganja into the sea. Pillarchie also threw away his mobile phone. Vaughans threw away the SAT phone and the GPS device. That meant that others involved could not be identified. Some 44 packages were recovered. They contained approximately 673 pounds, or 305 kilos, of ganja. The canoe was equipped with two outboard engines and was unregistered.
Pillarchie (39) had previous convictions for importing some 436 pounds of ganja into the Cayman Islands in 2017 and for illegal landing. He had been sentenced on 26th March 2018 to concurrent sentences of 33 and 12 months' imprisonment.
Following his arrest in 2020, Pillarchie said he had been hired by men he did not know to transport the packages, which he believed were ganja, to a particular coordinate some 30 to 40 miles off the Cayman Islands, where he would be met by people coming from Cayman. In exchange for the ganja, they would receive fuel. However, they ran low on fuel and stopped short of the arranged meeting area, and contacted those in Cayman to meet them there.
Pillarchie said he knew what he was doing was wrong, but things were hard in Jamaica. He was paid 100,000 Jamaican dollars and was owed 300,000 Jamaican dollars. The Crown's case was that he played a significant or leading role in the enterprise.
Vaughans, the owner of the vessel and the father of four daughters, had no previous convictions. His account was similar to that of Pillarchie. He, too, said he did not know the names of those who had hired them. He was to be paid 5,000 US dollars. He threw away the mobile phone and SAT device in an attempt to protect other offenders in the enterprise. Cranston, the father of eight children, gave a similar account.
Keith Myers, the attorney who represented the men, said in light of the men's guilty plea, they should have received a full one-third reduction in their prison sentence instead of the 20 percent reduction that was given. Myers also submitted that the judge took insufficient account of the mitigating features as they applied to the facts of the case and that too much was made of the aggravating features of the case. That was, he submits, particularly so in the case of Linton Pillarchie, where the total uplift amounted to 45 percent.
Last month, the Court of Appeal denied the applicants' leave to appeal the sentences, stating that these were matters entirely within the judge's discretion.
Justice Richards, in her sentencing, had noted that while the men pleaded guilty, the evidence was overwhelming, and they would have been convicted even if they had not pleaded guilty. As a result, they were given a 20 percent reduction instead of one-third.
“We have no doubt that the similar previous convictions of Linton Pillarchie were a significantly aggravating feature. In the circumstances, we refuse leave to appeal against these sentences.” the written judgment states.