The High Court has freed a father of three who was sentenced to three years in jail for the possession of eight grams of marijuana in May 2018.
Twenty-seven-year-old Carl Mangal, a poultry farmer, was sentenced by City Magistrate, Judy Latchman on May 21 and fined $30,000, after he was found with the illegal substance.
However, the sentencing sparked outrage by many who thought that it was too harsh since it also came at a time when there were widespread calls for the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana.
Hughes is also a member of the Alliance For Change (AFC) – the party pushing for the mandatory three-year jail sentence for small amounts of Marijuana to be eliminated from Guyana’s laws.
Mangal was granted bail by the High Court, three weeks after he was sentenced as he awaited the outcome of the appeal.
During a full court on Friday at the High Court, the appeal was brought before Justices Priya Sewnarine – Beharry and Sandil Kissoon.
The appeal was allowed on the grounds that Magistrate Latchman in delivering her May 21 ruling, failed to inquire of Mangal – who did not have a lawyer at the time – whether the facts presented by the prosecution were true and correct before she sentenced him.
Mangal had entered a guilty plea.
The Judges ruled that the failure of the Magistrate to ask Mangal the question and to determine based on his response whether the plea should be sustained or changed to a not guilty plea, before sentencing, nullified the sentence imposed.
As such the appeal was allowed.
The ruling of the Appeal Court comes at a time when the Government is preparing to abolish custodial sentences for the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
This will see persons caught with the substance being faced with alternative sentences, such as community service or a fine. This measure will also address the issue of overcrowded prisons.
President David Granger told reporters at a news conference on August 31, 2018, that modern legislation will be tabled after the National Assembly comes out of recess, which will be in October.
On Friday, however, the President noted that this may be in contradiction with Guyana’s Tobacco laws to reduce smoking, but did not rule out marijuana being added to the tobacco legislation to prohibit smoking in public places.
He said the Government will still be pushing an agenda to discourage all forms of smoking.