A week is a long time in politics – and cannabis possession…

Similar Cases?

This week, aside from my own involvement regarding launching the petition for a referendum on casino gambling, has also seen an interesting contrast of court cases regarding personal possession of cannabis.

Last week, the 19 year old son of Cabinet Minister Trevor Moniz, Thomas Moniz, was taken to court on charges of possessing 2.1 grams of cannabis and related drug-related equipment.  Mr Moniz was found in possession of these ‘in Devonshire parish’.

This week a 29 year old without any obvious close connections to sitting Cabinet Ministers or governing party MP, was taken to court on charges of possessing 2.04 grams of cannabis.  The accused, Mr Pearman, was found in possession of this at Captains Lounge where the police were ‘conducting a liquor license check at Captain’s Lounge on Reid Street’.  The police had smelled ‘cannabis coming from the outdoor patio’ where they proceeded to search Mr Pearman.

Now, based solely on the evidence which the media reports as being the basis for these two’s charges, one might expect that, ceteris paribus (‘all things being equal’ – a favoured phrase of economists…), these two individuals would end up with the same conviction and punishment – or, if anything, the one found in possession of more cannabis as well as related drug equipment, would end up having a worse outcome.

Makes sense, right?

However, things are not ceteris paribus as it turns out…

Has justice been seen to be done?

Has justice been seen to be done?

Instead, Mr Pearman, with no drug equipment and possession of less cannabis (2.04 grams) was convicted and fined $500.

Mr Moniz, with drug equipment and possession of a greater amount of cannabis (2.1 grams), instead saw the Crown ‘fail to bring evidence’ and the case subsequently dismissed and all charges dropped.

Mr Moniz’s case also saw the Attorney General breach his constitutional remit by intruding on the remit of the DPP by taking it upon himself to explain why Mr Moniz had his case dismissed.  We learn that apparently Mr Moniz was in possession of such a small amount of cannabis that normally he would only have received a caution, with the case never even going to court.

So, confused?  

After all, Mr Pearman had less cannabis on his possession than Mr Moniz – why did his case go to court too?  And, at that, seeing as Mr Moniz was also in possession of drug-related equipment, why did Mr Moniz see his case dismissed while Mr Pearman did not, instead receiving a conviction and a fine?

Obviously not everything was equal between these two.  But what might this difference, or differences been?

Based solely on the information communicated in the media one is left understandably confused by the discrepancy between these two cases.

Now, perhaps this was Mr Moniz’s first charge, while Mr Pearman perhaps had previous charges – maybe that had a bearing on the different outcomes of these two otherwise similar cases?  Of course, we don’t know if that is the case; we just don’t know.

What we do know about the differences though are these:

  1. Political Connections: One was intimately related to a high-powered member of our community, a Cabinet Minister.  The other has no obvious connections with anyone of power.
  2. Race: No where in the media reports is there an overt indication of the defendants ethnicity.  However, there is a picture of Mr Moniz, and I think we can all safely identify him as being ‘White’ or ‘Portuguese’ in Bermudian racial terms.  There is no photo of Mr Pearman, although I think it’s fair to say, rightly or wrongly, that many would conclude that Mr Pearman would be considered, in a Bermudian context, as ‘Black’ or, at the very least, ‘not-White’.  First off, his first name ‘Yuki’ would not generally be associated with ‘White’ Bermudians, although it could pass as East Asian.  Secondly, Mr Pearman was charged as a result of being searched at Captain’s Lounge.  To non-Bermudians this wouldn’t mean much, but I think most Bermudians would agree that this establishment would generally be considered a generally ‘Black’ establishment.
  3. Wealth: As with ‘race’, one cannot make any definitive judgement here.  What we can say however is that Mr Moniz was somehow able to employ one of Bermuda’s most expensive QC’s, while, for whatever reason, Mr Pearman’s legal representative is not reported.  I think if Mr Pearman had one of the island’s most expensive QC’s, or someone on par with Mr Moniz’s representative, this would have been recorded.

So, while we don’t know about the two’s criminal histories, we do know for sure that there is a discrepancy in terms of power between the two.  And we can infer, with some degree of good reason, that they differed in terms of race (one White and rich, one not-White and not rich).

Now, whether or not those were indeed the only differences between the two cases, we don’t know on the basis of the media reporting.  However, it is likely that I will not be alone in drawing the above differences between the cases.

(In)Justice?

There are likely consequences that will arise from counter-posing these two cases.

Those who believe there is one law for the rich and another for the poor will see that belief strengthened.

Those who believe there is one law for Whites and another for non-Whites will see that belief strengthened.

Those who believe that the courts are subject to political interference – and that there was political interference in the case of Mr Moniz – will see that belief strengthened.

Ultimately, the credibility of the court and the law is undermined as a result of these two cases, at least in the eyes of the people.

And, somehow, I doubt the Attorney General will see fit to breach his constitutional remit again for the benefit of Mr Pearman.

 

 

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5 thoughts on “A week is a long time in politics – and cannabis possession…

  1. I’ve just received an email from a reader who has some legal training.

    According to the reader, the existing police caution guidelines note that cautions can be issued where the individual in question admits possession. All indications are that Mr Moniz plead ‘not guilty’ – denying possession – while Mr Pearman plead ‘guilty’.

    On the basis of the guidelines, it makes it all the more strange that Mr Pearman, who admitted possession, should not be given a caution, but instead receives a conviction and a fine. Mr Moniz, who, despite being found in possession of cannabis and drug equipment, contested the charges and doesn’t even receive a caution but instead gets his case dismissed and all charges dropped.

    Mr Pearman, non-White individual without the apparent political connections and wealth that Mr Moniz has at his disposal, accepts his guilt and as a consequence now has a likely travel ban, a criminal conviction and a fine to pay.

    Seems pretty unfair, and in the eyes of the people the credibility of the law and the justice system is called into question, with very dangerous consequences, both for the optics of the OBA and for the justice system, going forward.

    Of course, maybe there’s other differences. We just don’t know. However, based on what is known about these cases through the media, it sure doesn’t look too good…

  2. I also find this peculiar. I also find it peculiar that on the initial story for Mr. Moniz and the story for Mr. Pearman, the Royal Gazette did not allow the public to make comments.

  3. I commented on your moniz post and can usefully comment here also.

    Mr Pearman was smoking in a public place, in fact a licensed premises. Mr Moniz was merely possessing in his own home.

    Do you not see a difference here?

    Possession for your own private use is one thing and many would support legalization of that
    Smoking in a public place is something else. Many object teen to smoking of tobacco in public places

  4. Peter, thank you yet again for your comments.

    On a pedantic note, I’m not sure that Mr Moniz was arrested at home. The news articles cite his home as being on Pigeonberry Lane, Smiths, while he was arrested somewhere in Devonshire.

    While you may be correct in the specifics, that the charge was greater for Mr Pearman on the basis of being arrested in a public establishment, the optics of the case, for the general reader, is going to be seen much as I outline above. Perhaps that is something that the news should have addressed, to reduce some of the optics, but as is the damage is largely done and prejudices regarding the justice system have been reinforced as a result.

    Coming so soon after the controversy regarding Mr Moniz, it is surprising that this case was reported as it was, with no explanation coming for the discrepancies for the lay person (beyond your own comments here, which I thank you for). While I’m not suggesting the Attorney General breach his constitutional remit yet again, I would have expected the media to seek clarification, or, well, something.

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