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Man loses appeal against conviction for drug possession

Supreme Court

A man who sought to overturn his conviction for possessing cannabis with intent to supply has lost his appeal in the Supreme Court.

Shae Butterfield argued that magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo did not properly consider inconsistencies in evidence put forward by the police officers who arrested him in 2019.

However, Puisne Judge Shade Subair Williams said in a judgment handed down on Friday that the discrepancies did not touch on the relevant facts of the charges against him.

The court heard that on the night of February 16, 2019, police attended a football game at BAA field in Pembroke after receiving a report of a firearm.

When the officers went to the area where the firearm was allegedly seen, they saw a group of about 20 people, but as they approached, all but the defendant left.

The officers said they thought it was unusual that he remained in place and noticed what appeared to be a ziplock bag under his feet.

As one officer began to move Butterfield, they saw that the bag contained several smaller bags, and told him that they were going to search him under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Butterfield then reportedly ran, sprinting over the football field and on to Woodlands Road with the officers chasing him.

Police caught him near Butterfield and Vallis and, during a search, discovered a lock knife and $2,668 in cash, with one officer telling the court that when he pried open the defendant’s hand, he dropped two small, red ziplock bags.

The court heard that the dropped bags contained 0.47g of cannabis and 0.38g of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, a concentrated cannabinoid known as “shatter”.

Meanwhile, the ziplock bag found at the field contained 10.41g of cannabis and 1.34g of shatter.

It was estimated that the seized shatter was worth up to $1,000, while the cannabis could fetch up to $550.

During his trial, Butterfield said he had been given a down payment of $3,000 in cash for cabling work the night before his arrest and denied that his hand was pried open or that he dropped anything at the scene of his arrest.

He admitted that he did have drugs on him at the time of his arrest, but said he had recently purchased his jacket from a family member and did not know the drugs were in the pocket.

Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo found Butterfield guilty of two counts of possessing drugs with intent to supply, describing his defence as a “big lie” designed to “evade responsibility and accountability for his illegal activity”.

Butterfield launched an appeal, arguing that the magistrate had not properly directed himself on inconsistencies in the evidence of police.

He noted that one officer said the bag he was seen standing on was filled with smaller red bags, while another said the bags were filled with green or brown material.

Mrs Justice Subair Williams said neither officer was challenged during the trial about the seizure of the bag or that they had seen the defendant standing on it.

And while only one officer mentioned an effort to lead the defendant away from the bag before he ran, the judge said none of the witnesses had refuted that evidence.

“The magistrate, therefore, had no reason to reject any of these factual components of the Crown’s case, which did not impugn the individual credibility of any witness,” she said.

Butterfield also highlighted the lack of DNA evidence linking him to the seized bags, but Mrs Justice Subair Williams said the magistrate was entitled to accept the Crown’s case without it.

“The direct evidence of the police witnesses was sufficiently strong enough to establish the appellant’s knowledge and control of the plastic bag he sought to conceal by standing on top of it,” she said.

Mrs Justice Subair Williams dismissed the appeal and remitted the matter back to Magistrates’ Court for sentencing.

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