APPEAL COURT, HIGH COURT OF JUSTICIARY
OPINION OF THE COURT
NOTE OF APPEAL AGAINST SENTENCE
STEVEN KEVIN WARD
HER MAJESTY'S ADVOCATE
Appellant: Brown; Martin Johnston & Socha
Respondent: Menzies, Q.C., A.D.; Crown Agent
10 June 1999
This is the appeal of Steven Kevin Ward who was sentenced to four years imprisonment for a contravention of section 4(3)(b) of the Misuse of Drugs Act. The circumstances were that acting on information received, the police kept watch on the appellant. They saw him on one occasion drive to a car park in a supermarket and then staying there for a short time before returning home. It appears that this was a dry run for another similar trip which he undertook about three weeks later. On the second occasion he met a man in the car park and received a package from him. The police intercepted his car and found that the package contained cannabis resin. There were in fact twenty four 9oz bars, which had a maximum street value of about £30,000.
What was said in mitigation to the sentencing judge was that the appellant, who is 34 years of age, suffered a serious back injury at the age of 17. At the age of 21 he was operated on, but continued to suffer pain in his back and he was unable to return to any form of employment. There is medical evidence to support the view that he does suffer from continuing back pain, the diagnosis being failed surgical back syndrome. It appears that the appellant had turned to cannabis resin as all other method of pain relief had failed. At the time of this offence he had been using cannabis for over two years. The more he used it the more he found he needed it to obtain any benefit from it for pain relieving purposes. As a result of his consumption of cannabis, he became known to drug dealers. An opportunity arose for him to be involved as a courier, and he was to be given a quantity of cannabis resin in exchange for his services. This was a one-off event and of course it is only the one incident with which we are concerned today.
Mr Brown, on the appellant's behalf today, has emphasised the matters which were before the sentencing judge and emphasised in particular the unusual background to this case and the fact that this was a one-off event. He submitted that the sentencing judge gave too much weight to the fact that the value of the cannabis involved was in the region of £30,000. The sentencing judge tells us that his reason for imposing the sentence he did was that couriers had an important part to play in the distribution of controlled drugs, and this required to be reflected in the sentences imposed. He accepted that the appellant had no analogous previous convictions and that he had pleaded guilty. He accepted that there were some unusual background circumstances, and he accepted that the appellant was not acting as a courier for financial gain, although he expected some benefit for himself.
We would agree with the sentencing judge that couriers do have an important part to play and in general this requires to be reflected in the sentences imposed. However, in our view, it may be that the sentencing judge gave insufficient weight to the slightly unusual background circumstances of this case and as a result was unduly swayed by the quantity of cannabis involved. In our opinion the appropriate sentence would have been one of three years imprisonment and accordingly we shall quash the sentence of four years and impose a sentence of three years.