Cannabis growers MUST be jailed says top judge as he ignores ‘soft’ guidelines and imprisons six men

A senior judge has ignored ‘soft’ new drugs sentencing  guidelines by jailing six men for growing cannabis. Judge Alan Goldsack criticised regulations that came into force last week and defied the authority of the Sentencing Council for England and Wales. Under the new guidelines, at least four of the six offenders who were jailed at Sheffield Crown Court should probably have been given a community penalty. Home-grown ‘skunk’ cannabis production is said to have reached ‘epidemic’ proportions in South Yorkshire, the area around the court, and judges there have been routinely jailing even low-level offenders in an effort to clamp down on the industry. The judges have been following ‘clear and succinct’ guidance given by the Court of Appeal early last year, urging tougher sentences. However under the new guidelines, the sentence range, if no more than nine plants are involved, goes from a conditional discharge to a medium- level community order.  Even where 28 plants are involved, the sentencing range is from a low-level community order up to 26 weeks in jail. On Friday Judge Goldsack, the Recorder of Sheffield and the most senior judge sitting at the city’s crown court, sentenced 13 cannabis growers in one hearing. He told the court it would ‘not be in the interests of justice’ to follow the new guidelines. ‘Suddenly reducing sentences, which have been seen as appropriate and hopefully effective in reducing a very common form of offending, would seriously undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system,’ he said.

In a lengthy address to a packed courtroom, Judge Goldsack said it was clear that cannabis was being widely grown in attics, cellars and bedrooms, and that a few plants could produce a substantial amount of the drug. He said: ‘There is the clearest possible evidence of the damaging impact on local communities of this particular type of offending. ‘The hope was that before too long the level of offending would drop off dramatically once potential offenders realised the sentence they face if caught.’ Judge Goldsack said that in his judgment, where an offender has grown cannabis with an actual or potential yield close to or more than 1 kilo (2.2lb), an immediate custodial sentence is justified. He jailed six offenders and gave another seven community penalties. Gary Woodward, 31, of Maltby, near Rotherham, was jailed for 15 months and Alexander McGregor, 23, of Shiregreen, Sheffield, was imprisoned for ten months. Mark Bolton, 47, Matthew Taylor, 28, Gary Brearley, 45, and Robert Healey, 24, all from Barnsley, each received nine months. All admitted producing cannabis, which prosecutors accepted was for their personal use. Woodward had four previous convictions for possessing cannabis and admitted supplying to friends. Later counsel for several of those jailed indicated that they would be appealing. The Sentencing Council is a  public body set up to promote a ‘clear, fair and consistent approach to sentencing’. Members include senior judges, a magistrate, solicitor, barrister,  academic and police and probation service officials. The courts ‘must follow’ the guidelines it publishes ‘unless it is in the interests of justice not to do so’.

via : daily mail

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