A Jamaican man who was sentenced by a Tunapuna magistrate to three years’ hard labour for trafficking cocaine in 2014, has won his appeal.
On September 22, 2014, O’Neil Williams was convicted in the Tunapuna Magistrates Court and sentenced to three years’ hard labour by Magistrate Aiden Stroude.
He pleaded guilty to the charge when he went to court, but denied that the facts presented by the prosecution were correct.
At his appeal before Justices Alice Yorke-Soo Hon and Mark Mohammed on Thursday, his attorney, Karunaa Bisramsingh, argued that because Williams did not agree with the facts of the police case, it was unclear what he was pleading guilty to.
Williams also told the magistrate someone had asked him to “drop off something” and he did so. His lawyer said this suggested that he had a defence available and should not have been allowed to plead guilty.
She said the magistrate should have allowed him to seek legal representation — since he had no lawyer at the time — and entered a not-guilty plea instead.
She also argued that the magistrate failed to ask Williams what part of the facts he did not agree with, to determine whether it would have made a difference to the verdict or sentence.
Two other grounds of appeal were also advanced on Williams’ behalf. The appellate judges agreed with Bisramsingh and upheld the appeal.
No trial was ordered, since Williams has been in jail since his arrest in 2014. He is at the Immigration Detention Centre in Aripo awaiting deportation.
The State was represented by prosecutor Angelica Teelucksingh-Ramoutar.