Call it a glaring oversight with unintended consequences, but legislation enacted in November 2019 – piloted by Bermuda’s Attorney General has resulted in 100 cases involving cannabis sitting on a shelf with no way to prosecute the offenders.
The authorities would neither confirm or deny just how many offenders are currently on standby. Our sources say there are as many as 150 would-be defendants’ cases on hold.
Since our initial inquiries, Bermuda Real has confirmed that a non-Bermudian couple, who arrived here on a commercial airline flight several months ago, reportedly carrying 40lbs of cannabis, or more, were recently allowed to leave the island on the promise that they would return for trial.
They were here in stuck in limbo, under restricted police bail conditions, that were lifted to let them go. At one point, one of them; who took ill, was stuck in the King Edward VII Hospital (KEMH) because he had nowhere to live. His partner was housed at the Salvation Army’s Emergency Housing Shelter in the interim.
Following the man’s release from KEMH, the couple were housed at a local guest house. No one would say at whose expense, but they’re gone now, with their alleged case of importing cannabis still pending.
In follow up to this report, Bermuda Real sent an exclusive request for a response to the Bermuda Police Service (BPS) and the Attorney General’s media representative.
Unlike the BPS, whose spokesman answered the same day, five days later the AG’s media rep still had nothing to say. She did however, acknowledge receipt of our request and our initial deadline, which was Monday, November 2, 2020 at 6am.
This report has been in the works since early September and was put on hold in the lead up to the General Election on October 1, followed by the onslaught of Hurricane Paulette.
The request for more information from the police was cc’d to the Commissioner of Police, Stephen Corbishley and Detective Chief Inspector Nicholas Pedro, head of the Crime Division.
The Manager of Media Relations at the BPS, stated the following:
“The Bermuda Police Service (BPS) will not comment on specific matters. However, there are approximately 100 cases that remain on hold due to the change in legislation.
“The delay is as a result of the Government laboratory, which conducts the testing not having the equipment to meet the evidential criteria as set out in the legislation.
“All other queries should be put to the Attorney General’s Chambers as the BPS is not responsible for drafting legislation.”
The legislation in question is the Misuse of Drugs Act (Hemp) Amendment 2019, piloted by the AG, who is also the Minister of Legal Affairs.
The intent of the Bill was to define Hemp as any part of cannabis plant that has a THC content of less than 1 percent; which means that any cannabis prosecution in Bermuda’s courts requires the prosecutors to prove a THC content of more than 1 percent to call it cannabis. It was designed to draw a legal distinction between cannabis and hemp under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1972.
The intended distinction between the two was established to allow for the importation, possession, supply and sale of hemp products in Bermuda.
But this is the year 2020, the year the Progressive Labour Party government promised to deliver legislation enacting cannabis reform. The Minister led the public consultation process, although the actual reform has yet to be enacted. And apparently she; or her Ministry, have nothing to say regarding this blundered piece of legislation that has resulted in a backlog of cases.
Here’s the problem – there is no lab on island with the equipment to do what this new law requires them to do and it’s a very selective analysis process in any lab on the planet equipped to do it. And it’s not like you can just put cannabis seized in Bermuda in a courier package to ship to a lab overseas.
As a direct result of this Bill, since the law went into effect last November, there are at least 100 cases backlogged, including some very serious multi-jurisdictional cases involving the DEA and the FBI.
Now the defendants involved are stuck in limbo, in “an ever revolving police bail situation”, who have not been charged with any offences but have their liberties restricted due to police bail conditions – some for nearly a year.
Meanwhile, senior officers, who spoke to Bermuda Real on the condition of anonymity, want to know “where was the vision, or lack thereof, never mind who came up with this clause in the law”. And they are “literally gobsmacked” that no one saw it coming before the Bill was passed.
They also contend that “this whole situation is being swept under the carpet by the powers that be because they are going to have to pass new legislation to fix this mess”, a mess “clearly flawed” from the outset.
One source said: “Both the DPP and the Government knows about this current state of affairs and to date, nothing has been done to address it.”
And Parliament does not reconvene until this Friday, November 6, which means nothing will happen this month – almost a year later. For the defendants whose cases remain on hold, it means they will continue to hang in limbo, with the exception of the US couple allowed to leave the island “on the promise to return to Bermuda” once it’s sorted out. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that is not going happen.
Your best bet would be not to count on it!
Either way, there is only one, possibly two people authorised to make such a decision to allow suspected importers to leave the island, and that’s either Larry Mussenden, the Director of Public Prosecutions and/or the Attorney General – or BOTH!
In light of the tightlipped status on Bermuda Real’s request for the specifics – the world may never know!