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Appeal Court overturns cannabis conviction

A man who was jailed for the possession of cannabis in the Magistrate’s Court had his conviction and two-year sentence overturned by the Appeal Court when it convened in Antigua on Friday.

Sheldon Aird of Villa was alleged to be in possession of 240 grams of cannabis in his cells at His Majesty’s Prison.

He was arrested and charged with possession of cannabis and possession with intent to transfer by two police officers attached to the prison.

Aird, who represented himself before Chief Magistrate Joanne Walsh, was convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment after she expressed that she was convinced by the evidence of the officers.

While serving his sentence, Aird, with the help of a fellow inmate, appealed Chief Magistrate Walsh’s ruling.

His case was later taken over by defence attorney Wendel Robinson who argued that the chief magistrate established no foundation for her decision and failed to provide adequate rationale for the decision to convict.

Robinson argued that the Court of Appeal cannot entertain speculation and insisted that magistrates have an obligation to apply the law to the facts presented to them and to state the basis of their decisions.

Robinson was also critical of the court’s decision to sentence his client so harshly for 240 grams of cannabis.

Senior Crown Counsel in the office of the Director of Public Prosecution, Shannon Jones Gittens, conceded and outlined the errors made by the chief magistrate.

The Court of Appeal, presided over by Madame Justice Gertel Thom, having considered both arguments, agreed with the defence and overturned the conviction and two-year sentence.

Aird had served eight months of his sentence when his matter came before the Court of Appeal.

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