Isle of Man: ‘Too heavy handed in approach to drugs’
The island’s legal system has been lambasted and described as ‘heavy-handed’ after court cases involving tiny amounts of cannabis.
Last week a 30-year-old woman appeared in court charged with having an amount of cannabis almost too small to weigh.
Tanya Margery Corkill, of Alder Road, Pulrose, was sentenced to a 12-month conditional discharge for having 0.2 grams of the drug, said to have a street value of between £1.06 and £4.
In January 2015, a 28-year-old, Martin David Kewley, of Empire Terrace, Douglas, was put on probation for six months for having £1.59 worth of cannabis, weighing 0.3 grams.
Well known chef and former Keys candidate David Buttery, known as Butch, was sentenced to 160 hours’ community service for cultivating and possessing the drug after five plants were found at his home in November 2014.
Mr Buttery told police he put the cannabis in his food to help with relief for medical problems. He said of the latest 0.2 grams drugs case: ‘It is ridiculous that time and resources are still being used to prosecute and criminalise people for cannabis. ‘We have shown how progressive the island can be by sanctioning gay marriage, but we continue to make ourselves a laughing stock with these pointless and heavy-handed arrests. ‘I watched the ITV4 documentary “TT Blues” where our local cops told the viewers how it was their job to keep the riders safe, whilst bikes hurled past at 150mph on open roads. ‘Later on they were shown kicking down the door of some poor bloke’s flat, then carting him off in handcuffs for smoking pot.
On his own in his own home! ‘Exactly who are they keeping safe here?’
Responding to the issue, Chief Constable Gary Roberts said: ‘It should be noted that no one is prosecuted for a first possession-only offence so long as they make an admission and attend a drugs awareness programme.’
Unveiling his latest annual report last month, Mr Roberts expressed his concern that drug users were being prosecuted for possession of small quantities of cannabis.
At that time, he told the Manx Independent: ‘I’m concerned we are prosecuting offenders for very, very small amounts of drugs. ‘There is a question whether the justice system is always the right place to deal with this type of very low level offence, especially for those who are young and who have very few previous convictions. ‘It’s not the best use of public resources. It’s not just a policing issue.’
Mr Roberts went on to explain that the police’s hands are tied by the law as it stands, under which a first offence results in a caution and a second offence a referral to the drugs arrest referral scheme.
Subsequent offences result in a court appearance.
The Chief Constable also said that he had begun talks with the Attorney General to try to determine whether existing cautioning and prosecution policies were still relevant.
It was estimated the cost of prosecuting Martin Kewley for having £1.59 worth of cannabis was £5,000.
Advocate John Wright estimated that the cost of prosecuting Tanya Corkill would be in the region of £3,000 to £5,000.
He said: ‘The prosecution has to decide two things: if there is sufficient evidence and if it is in the public interest.
But other things are also considered, such as: do we need to make an example; the person’s previous record; or whether they’ve been on any rehabilitation courses.
People think defence costs are high but these would only have come to around £160 if someone was represented by the duty advocate and it was paid by legal aid.
‘I had a case about five years ago when a man who was drunk went into a supermarket and lay in a chest freezer.
He squashed three packets of frozen pizza but co-operated and offered to pay for them. But the store insisted it wanted to prosecute. He was charged with criminal damage and given a conditional discharge.’