Longest Jail Term For Drug Offence

Fiji Court of Appeal increases 14-year sentences to 25 years in a landmark decision.
08 Jun 2019 11:36
Longest Jail Term For Drug Offence

A Fiji Court of Appeal panel has increased a 14- year sentence to 25 years in a landmark decision against two men convicted of drug offences.

This is the harshest penalty handed down by the court so far in illicit drug-related cases.

It is part of a new set of tariffs to act as a deterrent for would-be offenders.

Australian national Joseph Abourizk and Fijian taxi driver Josese Muriwaqa were convicted and jailed by the High Court in Lautoka in April 2016 for one count of unlawful possession of illicit drugs.

They must serve 20 years before they can be eligible for parole. The sentence will be effective from the original sentence on April 29, 2016.

The two were found in possession of 49.9 kilograms of cocaine near Vuda Point in Lautoka on July 13, 2015.

They appealed against their conviction and sentence and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) appealed against their sentences. The ODPP said the sentence imposed by the High Court in 2016 was lenient and not in accordance with overseas sentencing tariffs used by local courts.

In its submission, the ODPP said Fiji needed a structured, judicial-led approach to sentencing for hard drug offences.

It also said the approach should be primarily based on quantity rather than the role of individual offenders, so as to deter offenders at all levels of illicit drugs operations.

The three judge panel (Justice Suhada Gamalath, Justice Chandana Prematilaka and Justice Wasantha Bandara) set the first local sentencing tariffs for all hard/major drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

The guidelines are:

  •  Category 1: Up to 5 grams – two-and-a-half-years to four-and-a-half-years imprisonment
  • Category 2: More than 5 grams up to 250 grams-three-and-a-half-years to 10 years imprisonment
  • Category 3: More than 250 grams up to 500 grams- Nine years to 16 years imprisonment
  • Category 4: More than 500 grams up to 1 kilogram- 15 years to 22 years imprisonment
  • Category 5: More than 1 kilogram- 20 years to life imprisonment

The panel said: “The sentencing court should consider an appropriate fine in addition to the imprisonment as permitted under Section 5 of the Illicit Drugs Control Act 2004 depending on the quantity involved, nature of the act and the degree of involvement of the accused”.

Edited by Jonathan Bryce


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