A Canadian construction worker who admitted to trafficking 1.16 kilogrammes of cocaine in 2012, because of a pre-existing medical condition, has had his sentence varied.
Although his sentence was varied to remove a $20,000 fine imposed on him, Justices of Appeal Alice Yorke-Soo Hon and Mark Mohammed said such offences must meet harsh consequences.
Christopher Awni Shair was arrested on November 20, 2012, while at the Piarco International Airport. He was in TT for one week on vacation and, because of his disease, he wanted to “make money.”
Several packets containing cocaine were found hidden in his suitcase. He pleaded guilty and was fined and sentenced to four years’ hard labour by a magistrate.
He appealed his sentence on the basis that the magistrate did not apply the methodology handed down by the appellate court for sentencing, and started with a too high starting point of ten years, which is the maximum sentence.
Shair’s attorney Wayne Sturge argued that the magistrate failed to take into account his client’s guilty plea and previous good character.
In their ruling, Mohammed agreed that the magistrate did not follow the sentencing methodology which allowed the appellate court to look at the sentencing afresh. He said it served no practical purpose to impose a fine since Shair was also sentenced to jail time. He also said the maximum sentence of ten years should be for the worst of the worst cases and, while trafficking of cocaine was serious and prevalent, this case did not fall into that category.
Shair’s sentence was reduced to three and a half years after the relevant discounts were made, which is to run from the date he was sentenced on November 24, 2016.
Although the judges varied the sentence, they said a message must be sent. Mohammed said TT has earned a reputation as a major transshipment point for drug trafficking. Cocaine trafficking, he said, destroyed the fabric of society.
In Shair’s case, both judges said his pre-existing medical condition did not justify his actions.
“It was all the more reason not to get involved in this. This is no way to make money. We cannot give weight to that excuse,” Soo Hon said.
Senior state attorney Mauricia Joseph appeared for the State.