The Court of Appeal on Wednesday varied the sentence of a drug convict, which will see him leaving prison sooner than expected.
It said Korey Alphonso Flatts, of Block 19C, Silver Hill, Christ Church, would spend just over 800 days behind bars, starting from when he was sentenced in June 2019.
Flatts was slapped with a 10-year prison term after pleading guilty to possession, trafficking and importation of 303.4 kilogrammes of cannabis while in Barbados’ territorial waters. He admitted to the May 9, 2016 charges, in February 2019, before Madam Justice Pamela Beckles.
According to the facts previously outlined, Flatts captained a boat to St Vincent, collected the illegal drugs and returned to Barbados. He told the court he had committed the crime to finance his son’s college education overseas.
However, after being sentenced, he launched an appeal through attorney-at-law Dennis Headley on several grounds, including that the trial judge had not given any credit for his favourable pre-sentencing report and the delay in having his case heard.
In fact, Headley said the Court of Appeal should consider releasing his client, given that he had been incarcerated for more than five years, which included his time on remand.
The appeal panel of Justices Rajendra Narine, Jefferson Cumberbatch and Francis Belle, in handing down a unanimous decision, said they were unable to agree with Headley that the case involved “an inordinate delay which has caused prejudice to his client”.
Justice Narine, who delivered the ruling, pointed to the timeline of the case getting to the High Court and then the Court of Appeal, as well as the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic which affected the hearing of matters on the court’s docket at all levels.
“In any event, the appellant will be credited as he was before the trial judge with the time spent in custody awaiting the trial. So that, in our view, there is no merit in that ground,” the judge said.
However, Justice Narine said the panel found that there was merit in the other ground pertaining to the “extremely positive” mitigating factors of the offender, although they could find “no fault” in the judge’s starting sentence of ten years.
“We see, however, that there was one flaw in the sentencing procedure,” Justice Narine stated as he explained that the judge did acknowledge the mitigating factors.
He further stated that Justice Beckles had pointed to, among other things, Flatts’ expression of remorse and his early guilty plea.
“We will add to that, the extremely positive presentence report that was given in his favour,” the appeal judge said.
Flatts, he pointed out, had no previous convictions, no encounters with the law prior, and was assessed as being at low risk of reoffending.
“. . . . As we noted before, these are very strong mitigating factors. The trial judge did recognize that there were mitigating factors; unfortunately, she failed to translate that into the sentence itself,” Justice Narine added, stating that Beckles only deducted time for the guilty plea from the starting sentence and gave Flatts full credit for the time he had spent on remand, which was 1 129 days.
“We wish to vary the sentence in one respect. We believe that a reduction of two years should have been applied to the starting point in order to take account of the strong mitigating factors of the offender in this case.”
Flatts therefore now has 818 days left to serve, which is to start from the date he was sentenced.
“The appeal is allowed . . . . Sentence varied,” Justice Narine said of the case in which the respondents were represented by Senior Crown Counsel Neville Watson and Crown Counsel Romario Straker.