A three-year-old drug-related matter against a Carrot Bay man was thrown out of the Magistrate’s Court on Friday after several ‘deficiencies’ relating to the handling of evidence and general procedure was raised.
Prior to Friday’s dismissal, Renardis Donovan, a farmer, was charged with cultivation of cannabis. He was accused of cultivating the illicit plant on October 16, 2015.
The farmer’s trial was nearing completion when his attorney, Jamal Smith, raised several objections which were upheld by Magistrate Shawn Innocent.
The court heard that the search warrant that was effected on Donovan was done in a wrong name and on a property that did not belong to him.
The second issue laid was with the photographs that were allegedly taken at the cannabis farm in question. The defence argued that photos did not include any police officers nor the defendant. This, the attorney argued, means the photos could have been taken anywhere and not necessarily on Donovan’s farm.
The third issue of contention the defence attorney raised was with the procedure of getting the drugs tested by and analysed. Smith argued that there was no proper ‘chain of custody’ documented in relation to who handled the cannabis plants after they were seized and sent for analysis. The analysis report only contained a lab number and the defendant’s name, the court heard.
There was no paper trail detailing who had the cannabis plants and when. Smith, therefore, argued that this left too many unanswered questions which, he said, might prejudice his client.
The defence then pointed to the testimony of the investigating officer of the case. That officer had told the court that samples of the suspected cannabis were no longer accessible because the police evidence room where the plants were being stored was covered in mould.
Considering all the inconsistencies that develop between now and 2015 when Donovan was first charged, the Crown was forced to withdraw the matter against the accused man.
“The police needs to step up their game,” Magistrate Innocent said.
What the Crown alleged
The court heard that about 5:30 am on the day in question, officers of the RVIPF conducted a search of Donovan’s farm in Carrot Bay, Tortola.
It was alleged that the area was cultivated with fruit trees and vegetables. It is further alleged that some 226 cannabis plants were allegedly discovered between those crops.
The plants were photographed, bagged and taken into evidence while Donovan was arrested and charged.
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