BELIZE CITY, Wed. Feb. 7, 2007
Two women, Martha Allen, 28, and her niece, Melissa Allen, 21, who were convicted of drug trafficking yesterday for attempting to smuggle 10 grams of cannabis into prison, were spared from a custodial sentence by the Chief Magistrate, Margaret McKenzie.
Melissa was already crying, believing that she would go to jail when Chief Magistrate McKenzie told her to save her tears for May 6, 2007, because if she did not pay the fine of $2,000 by then, she would do a term of 18 months.
The same fine and sentence in default of payment also applied to Martha, who, like her niece, believed that she would be sent to jail.
Before she fined them, Chief Magistrate McKenzie told them that for the offence of drug trafficking, she could sentence them to three years and fine them $10,000 each. But she only fined them because they have no previous convictions. She remarked that it was sad to see young women being used as “mules.”
Martha and Melissa committed the offence on July 17, 2006, when they went to Belize Hattieville Prison, located on the Burrell Boom/Hattieville Road to visit inmates Raymond Allen and Cruz Allen. Raymond is Martha’s brother and Melissa’s uncle. Cruz is Melissa’s brother and Martha’s nephew.
Prison officer Chana Tesecum testified that when she searched a bag that Martha and Melissa brought with them, she found a jar of peanut butter that contained cannabis wrapped in a piece of plastic. Martha and Melissa were detained and the police in Hattieville, who were sent for by prison authorities, charged them with drug trafficking.
Normally, for the charge of drug trafficking, the amount of cannabis has to be 60 grams or more. But because the offence was committed at the prison, which is a place of rehabilitation, the charge is drug trafficking regardless of the quantity.
Martha and Melissa testified. Martha said that when they arrived at the prison a man they did not know gave them a bag and asked them to take it into the prison to an inmate by the name of Alfred Bevans. She claimed that she did not know what was in the bag, and only took it to help the man, who told her he had no identification card.
Martha’s testimony was corroborated by Melissa. They called a witness, Tanya Perez, 20, who testified that she went with them to prison in a taxi they hired from Pound Yard Bridge, and she saw when the man gave them the bag.
But Perez did not help the defendants. Instead, it damaged the credibility of their testimonies because they had testified that they went to Hattieville in a bus, and only took a taxi from the roundabout to the prison.
Besides that, Chief Magistrate McKenzie found it hard to believe that Martha and Melissa took a bag from a perfect stranger without finding out what was inside it, and she found them guilty.
At the trial, the prosecution was represented by Corporal Clinton “System” Magdaleno.