By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
A man previously sentenced to three years in prison for being caught with 10 ounces of cocaine he planned to distribute has effectively had his sentence reduced to time served because he was not afforded a “rebate” for admitting to the offence.
The appellate tribunal of Justices Jon Isaacs, Sir Michael Barnett and Milton Evans ruled Matthew Andre Miller will serve no more than the 22 months he has already been in custody from the date of his conviction on May 2017
Their reason for making such a ruling, according to Justice Isaacs, is because the adjudicator who sentenced him departed from “normal” procedure by not factoring in his early plea of guilty among other things, thus making his sentences “inordinately high”.
According to the ruling, Miller plead guilty to possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply and taking preparatory steps to export dangerous drugs. He was also convicted of resisting arrest. He was sentenced to three years on count one; fined $6,000 or two years in prison on count two; and three months for resisting arrest. The sentences were ordered to run consecutively
When he appeared to in court last week to appeal his punishment, Miller had already served 22 months in prison.
However, according to Justice Isaacs, the Miller’s sentences were borne out of the adjudicator’s departure from standard practice to consider his guilty plea in sentencing him, and then ordering that his sentences be served consecutively despite the crimes having taken place at the same time.
“In the normal course of events, persons pleading guilty are afforded, for want of a better word, a rebate to encourage such actions on the part of accused persons,” Justice Isaacs said. “The benefit that accrues to the court is that the court’s time is saved, witnesses do not have to be brought and the inconvenience that involves, and it certainly demonstrates to the court a level of contriteness on the part of the defendant that there is remorse for the commission of the offence. In those circumstances, pleas of guilt ought to be encouraged. Unfortunately, in this case, the reverse has occurred.
“Having pleaded guilty to the offences, the accused, notwithstanding he was given fines and in lieu thereof imprisonment, we are of the view that these sentences are inordinately high. Certainly, the fact that they are made consecutive cannot stand in the face of the statute which indicates that offenses that are all transacted at the same time ought not to attract consecutive sentences.”
Thus, the appellate court quashed Miller’s three year sentence and substituted a sentence of 22 months; and quashed the $6,000 fine or two years sentence and imposed a custodial sentence of 18 months.
They did not bother with Miller’s sentence for resisting arrest. However, all of the new sentences are to run concurrently from the date of his conviction.
“The court is not in a position to calculate when his release date will occur, but the prison most certainly is in that position,” Justice Isaacs said.