One of this island’s musicians appeared contrite before the law courts today on charges of possession and cultivation of marijuana.
Romel Ulric Bennett, the singer/song writer who goes by the stage name Sanctuary, a resident of St John, also faced charges of possession with intent to traffic and supply the illegal substance.
He pleaded guilty to all four charges before Chief Magistrate Ian Weekes and was placed on a bond to keep the peace and be of good behavior for nine months on the cultivation charge, after his attorneys Michael Lashley Q.C. and Simon Clarke “persuaded” the Chief Magistrate on several mitigating features of his case. If he breaches the bond he will have to pay the court $1 500 forthwith or spend six months in prison.
He was reprimanded and discharged on all other offences. According to prosecutor Victoria Taitt, the police, acting on information, executed a search warrant at Bennett’s residence earlier today.
Fifteen stalks of the vegetable substance were found hanging on lines in his bedroom. Lawmen extended the search and 43 plants attached to the soil were discovered outside the residence.
Bennett acknowledged ownership of the 20 pounds of weed, which has an estimated street value of $20 000.
Lashley, presenting on behalf of the first time offender, told the court his client had thrown himself at the mercy of the court at the first opportunity and had not wasted any judicial time.
However, while Lashley made it clear that there was no excuse for breaking the law, he submitted that entertainers in the country had been facing some tough times over the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Entertainers every recently have been making overtures to the State for upkeep of themselves and families . . . because things are difficult.
They make their living through performing and writing . . . and all of that has been shut down even internationally,” the senior attorney pointed out.
He also argued that the mitigating factors in Bennett’s case far outweighed the aggravating features and urged the court to show his client “some leniency” and to give him “a chance” as any conviction could negatively impact on his future overseas travels as an entertainer. Lashley also urged Chief Magistrate Weekes to impose a sentence that “conforms to conditions that keep his previous record clean”.
Magistrate Weekes said the Court had to be mindful about the “message” it was sending.
“I appreciate that as a musician and an entertainer that times are hard . . . . but there is that maid who used to work at the hotel . . . and she too would have suffered significantly as a result of COVID. So this court has to be very careful . . . there are many persons in the society now who are struggling as a result of COVID. Tourism has been decimated . . . .
“He is in fact a well-known name and when there is a return to normalcy he will need to travel to earn his living . . . it is unfortunate that Mr Bennett did not understand that before he went in this direction. He is a man of tremendous talent, it is unfortunate that you have gone this route,” Weekes said adding that he had been persuaded by Lashley’s submission.
Stating that the court did not “wish to destroy” Bennett’s future the Chief Magistrate paced him on the bond. No conviction will be recorded against his name once he successfully completes the bond.
“One would hope that this bond would motivate you to change. Don’t end back before the court.
“I want you to remember that you are an example to up and coming musicians . . . It is not to say that you cannot make mistakes but those young entertainers who look up to you .. . you must not disappoint them again,” Chief Magistrate Weekes told him.
Sanctuary replied, “Thank you sir . . . I have learnt my lesson sir . . . I am very sorry.”