HAMILTON, Bermuda, May 4, CMC — Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner has hit out over media reports which triggered controversy over his decision not to fine or jail a Harvard professor for importing cannabis into the country.
Warner, a Barbadian, also criticised lawyer and opposition legislator Mark Pettingill for speaking out against his award of a conditional discharge against Mey Akashah, an American who was caught with six grams of the drug at L.F. Wade International Airport.
Warner’s remarks came as he fined an American tourist US$4,000 for importing cannabis and a pipe into the island, found in his room on the Norwegian Star cruise ship.
At one stage, Warner suggested he should jail Robert Gimach over the offence, and the culprit was warned he could face a fine of up to US$500,000 for possessing the smoking equipment.
To the relief of Gimach and his wife, the eventual punishment was two fines of US$1,000 for importing cannabis and cannabis resin, and a further fine of US$2,000 for the pipe.
After hearing Crown counsel Cindy Clarke give the details of Gimach’s case, Warner told the court: “This is a really complex matter. I see a senior lawyer/politician in the newspaper.”
The Bermuda Sun quoted Pettingill as calling for an open and frank debate on Bermuda’s approach to soft drugs, noting Akashah’s case had generated headlines in the United States and the Caribbean.
Pettingill complained that Warner had sentenced one of his clients, a woman from California, to a month in jail and a USS$3,000 fine last year, after she was caught at the airport with prescription cannabis.
But the magistrate said there are consequences “when people talk and more importantly it’s printed.
“I can’t understand that. Certain people should not be heard, and those who give them the opportunity to hear it are the ones at fault.”
The Royal Gazette’s web site attracted numerous comments within hours of the Akashah story, with bloggers alleging she had been let off because she’s a white woman with a well-respected job.
“I wish, if they want to comment, everything that’s said in the court should be repeated and it should be a
straightforward representation of what’s said in this court,” Warner said.