Criminal record ‘error’ from 31 years ago causes travel hassles
A Bermudian man convicted 31 years ago for possessing cannabis is appealing to the powers that be to get his criminal record straight.
Just back from a trip to Costa Rica, Mark Druell Hall was detained for six hours by US Customs Officers in Miami. He is questioned and detained regularly because his criminal record has a charge on it that he was never convicted of.
In 1982, when he was 21, he pleaded guilty in Magistrates’ Court to possessing nine grams of cannabis and obstructing police. But his record says he was convicted of possessing the drugs with intent to supply.
As a result, as far as the US authorities are concerned, that puts him in the same category as a drug smuggler or a dealer, not a drug user.
A report on his case was printed in
The Royal Gazette on October 19, 1982, and reported that he was fined $1,000 for the cannabis and $200 for obstructing police.
The offences occurred on September 8, 1982 when he was stopped and searched by police on Front Street where a bag containing 11 twists of plant material was found. He was never charged with possessing the drugs with intent to supply.
Mr Hall stressed that he is grateful for the waivers to travel to the US granted over the past ten years, but he is fed up with the major stumbling blocks he has encountered in attempt to get the mistake corrected.
His sister, Linda Wellman, wrote on his behalf to Chief Justice Ian Kawaley in September last year. She notified him that the court “had filed the incorrect charges of intent to supply” on her brother’s conviction.
Ms Wellman wrote: “Please advise us what has to be done to get things right. I believe there are quite a few people out there that are going through the same situation and do not know where to turn for the information. [The information] Mark has been given has led him to blank walls, so I decided to write to you directly. Your assistance in our quest is greatly appreciated.”
Justice Kawaley responded in October 2012 to advise Mr Hall to apply for a waiver, but obtaining a waiver was not the problem.
As a result Mr Hall wrote to the Commissioner of Police and enclosed the newspaper clipping on his case with other documents.
Then Acting Commissioner Michael Jackman responded, and noted that he was in fact convicted of possessing marijuana and subsequently fined. But he wrote: “However, the legal wording concerning possession and personal use are in effect the same thing. If you have drugs with you for personal use, you are in possession of them. As such, there would be no amendment made to your criminal record as it has been recorded correctly.”
Said Mr Hall: “Clearly this officer missed the whole point and clearly my conviction was not recorded correctly. I was told in Miami that my record says that I was found guilty of possessing cannabis with intent to supply, that’s not what I was convicted of.
“I’ve tried over and over to get this addressed, I’m just hoping somebody will actually do something about it .
“I don’t have a problem with being on the stop list. This has nothing to do with the US Consulate and I appreciate the privilege and honour of going into their country.
“I have a problem with what Bermuda law has done wrong and I’m tired of butting my head against the wall when I know there’s somebody who can sort this out once and for all.
“I understand that they take their jobs very seriously and that drug dealers are treated as the scum of the earth. The guy even said to me a charge of possession is cool because his words ‘everybody smokes a little weed’, but it’s the intent to supply bit that changed up the whole thing.
“Seriously, there is a big difference from being a drug user to being a drug smuggler or dealer. I admitted my crime, I’ve paid the price and the least they can do is get the conviction right.
“At one point I thought I was going to jail in Miami, but the officer told me they had to escort me to my bag, search it, and then put me on the plane,” said Mr Hall.
“I’ve been to the Commissioner of Police, my sister has written to the Chief Justice and they’ve all come back with letters with a lot of nothing in it. The last thing I was told to do was to go see, or write the Governor.”
When contacted a police spokesman said: ““The Bermuda Police Service is aware of Mr Hall’s contention regarding his drug conviction. We would recommend that he make inquiries with the court where his matter was adjudicated, if he has not done so already.”
This newspaper sent Mr Hall’s paperwork to the Government spokesman for the Attorney General Mark Pettingill, the Minister responsible for Legal Affairs. There was no response by press time.