Judge slams dagga grower’s sentence

Tendai Rupapa Senior Court Reporter
A High Court judge has slammed a non-custodial sentence imposed on a dagga grower by a Mutoko magistrate saying that the offence was serious and the woman deserved a prison term of up to four years. The 51-year-old woman from Chikara Village, Mudzi, pleaded guilty to cultivating nine plants of dagga with an average height of two metres. She was convicted of unlawful dealing in dangerous drugs. The woman told the magistrate that she was cultivating the dagga for survival. The magistrate ordered her to pay $150 fine. She was given a wholly suspended three months imprisonment term.

Justice Tawanda Chitapi on review felt the sentence was too lenient. He said it had the risk of trivialising serious offences and eroding society’s confidence in the courts of law.

“The sentence imposed by the magistrate is cause for concern and calls for comment,” he said.

“The sentence imposed by the court a quo is in all the circumstances disturbingly inadequate. It has the effect of sending the wrong signal to society that a person can cultivate a dangerous drug on an appreciable scale for purposes of dealing in such drug for sale to members of the public and get away with a fine.”

He said the sale or supply of dangerous drugs is prohibited, principally because of their harmful effect to the user and the society, hence the need to impose a deterrent sentence.

“Courts should not be seen to be defeating legislative intents. As a general rule, a person who cultivates dagga for sale is to be looked upon as a dangerous drug farmer and such person should be visited with an exemplary sentence,” he said.

“In my view an appropriate sentence should have been that accused be sentenced to imprisonment of between three and four years with part suspended.

“In the light of my finding that the sentence imposed in this case was disturbingly inadequate, I withhold my certificate of confirmation of the proceedings as being in accordance with real and substantial justice.”

Police got a tip-off that the woman was cultivating dagga in her garden. They proceeded to her house. She led the police to her garden and showed them the plants.

She was arrested.

Article Source: The Herald