Updated | Daniel Holmes’s appeal rejected, prison term confirmed

Appeals Court confirms hefty prison sentence for Briton on cultivation of cannabis plants

Daniel Holmes’s wife Marzena emerges from the law courts in tears at news of her husband’s confirmed imprisonment.
Daniel Holmes’s wife Marzena emerges from the law courts in tears at news of her husband’s confirmed imprisonment.

An Appeals Court has confirmed a 10-year prison sentence for Briton Daniel Holmes, after the accused tried to get his punishment reduced in an appeal that raised the public's awareness on the harshness of Malta's drug laws.

Judges Joseph Zammit McKeon, Abigail Lofaro and David Scicluna, presided over the court of criminal appeal.

Daniel Alexander Holmes (pictured) was appealing a jail term of 10 year, six months and a €23,000 fine, after facing five charges of drug possession and trafficking, four of which carried a life sentence, related to the discovery of a cannabis plant in his Gozo home. Holmes admitted to all charges ahead of a trial by jury.

In its sentence, the court of criminal appeal said it would not disturb the first court's judgement simply because of its severity.

"This was an appeal from punishment, which was well within the  parameters of the law, as the maximum was a life sentence," Mr Justice David Scicluna said.

In court, where he was flanked by his wife Marzena, Holmes listened attentively to Scicluna delivering his decision. "The defence overlooked the fact that the crime was continuously spread over a period of five years. Albeit claiming to be a cannabis addict himself, the 32 plants and the set-up found at Holmes's residence prove it was in fact a production line."

During police searches no evidence of smoked cannabis was found, however the police found clearly marked packets containing cannabis, including a box with 600 grams of dried cannabis leaves. The only evidence of drug consumed inside the residence was a bottle of water containing traces of cocaine.

In his statement to the police, Holmes had claimed Barry Lee was an accomplice and that he had taken responsibility of what was found at his residence. Lee committed suicide in prison in 2008.

"The defence held that the appellant helped the police, however one cannot expect a reduction in punishment simply for not resisting arrest," judge Scicluna held.

"Those concerned over the suffering their family goes through due to their conviction, should consider this before embarking on criminal activity. Having a family is not a reason to disturb a court's decision," the judge said.

In a comment posted in MaltaToday's comment board, father Mel Holmes said he had never witnessed anything as inhumane in his life as before. "I have never heard anything so inhumane in my entire life. Are they blind to the evidence, or did our defence lawyer present such a bad case they they laughed it out of court?"

Holmes's defence counsel had told the court how the Briton accused of the trafficking of drugs, ostensibly after a cannabis plant was found at his house, lived in an old, ugly and decrepit apartment, a far cry from the prosecution's claim of living in luxury.

In his submissions, Kenneth Grima had said the convict was no drug baron, but someone who could not even afford a paltry €150 rent that was always paid by his parents, and who still owed his landlord €400 in water and electricity bills.

Court expert Godwin Sammut had found that the plants found had weighed in their totality, including the roots and stalks, 1,063g - but under oath he stated that this was the weight of the leaves alone, which would lead to a street value of €13,800.

Since Holmes's conviction, the law had changed so that first-time offenders are not liable to criminal proceedings. But the judge had delivered a prison sentence that was 40% harsher over the eight years requested by the prosecution.

The case generated a public outcry over the harsheness of the sentence, led to a public petition. Holmes, who spent 14 months under preventive arrest, had managed to kick his habit, found a job as a chef, and was in a stable relationship with a Polish woman who had given him a daughter.

Dr Maxine Bonnet appeared for the Attorney General while lawyers Kenneth and Christina Grima appeared for Holmes.

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WELL HOLMES HAVE A RESTFULL TIME IN PRISON AND THANK GOD EVERYDAY YOU SEE A NEW DAY IN PRISON BECAUSE IN THE UK YOU WOULD HAVE GOT A MUCH HARSHER PRISON SENTENCE. USING INOCENT PEOPLE TO SIGN A PETITION AFTER YOU SOLD DRUGS TO PEOPLE KNOWING VERY WELL THAT DRUGS MAY LEAD TO THE DEATH OF PEOPLE, SHAME!! TO YOU YOUR WIFE AND YOUR PARENTS WHO CANNOT OR SHOULD I SAY ARE NOT EVEN MATURE ENOUGH TO UNDERSTAND THE MEANING AND THE DAMAGE DRUGS DO TO PEOPLE. WELL DONE TO THE MALTESE JUSTICE AND THE POLICE THAT DID THE ARREST.WHO IS LAUGHING NOW??
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As usual it is impossible to 'reason' with those who hold position's of power in this country. The law is meant to be applied with discernment by Humans who are capable of objective, measured and clear thinking. And then they wonder why people take the law into their own hands
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The authorities in Malta should be absalutly ashamed of them selfs, 10 years for cannabis is inhumane, it should be the judge going to jail for human rights violations
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Buz you really should be ashamed of yourself first of all because it should have absolutely nothing to do with it whether he is a foreigner or a local, the law should be the same for everyone. Secondly, you really REALLY believe people take drugs because somebody enticed them on the school playground? Come on! How can it make sense that a trafficker would want to sell it to children, adults have more cash. This over-dramatising is, indeed, something to vomit about... I repeat, ESPECIALLY because nobody flinches when a child abuser, usually somebody who was a guardian to the child or trusted by the family to protect the child, gets away almost scott free! Nobody blinks an eye. Let us just agree that the current laws are out-dated and need to be revised!
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Buz you really should be ashamed of yourself first of all because it should have absolutely nothing to do with it whether he is a foreigner or a local, the law should be the same for everyone. Secondly, you really REALLY believe people take drugs because somebody enticed them on the school playground? Come on! How can it make sense that a trafficker would want to sell it to children, adults have more cash. This over-dramatising is, indeed, something to vomit about... I repeat, ESPECIALLY because nobody flinches when a child abuser, usually somebody who was a guardian to the child or trusted by the family to protect the child, gets away almost scott free! Nobody blinks an eye. Let us just agree that the current laws are out-dated and need to be revised!
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Buz you really should be ashamed of yourself first of all because it should have absolutely nothing to do with it whether he is a foreigner or a local, the law should be the same for everyone. Secondly, you really REALLY believe people take drugs because somebody enticed them on the school playground? Come on! How can it make sense that a trafficker would want to sell it to children, adults have more cash. This over-dramatising is, indeed, something to vomit about... I repeat, ESPECIALLY because nobody flinches when a child abuser, usually somebody who was a guardian to the child or trusted by the family to protect the child, gets away almost scott free! Nobody blinks an eye. Let us just agree that the current laws are out-dated and need to be revised!
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Buz you really should be ashamed of yourself first of all because it should have absolutely nothing to do with it whether he is a foreigner or a local, the law should be the same for everyone. Secondly, you really REALLY believe people take drugs because somebody enticed them on the school playground? Come on! How can it make sense that a trafficker would want to sell it to children, adults have more cash. This over-dramatising is, indeed, something to vomit about... I repeat, ESPECIALLY because nobody flinches when a child abuser, usually somebody who was a guardian to the child or trusted by the family to protect the child, gets away almost scott free! Nobody blinks an eye. Let us just agree that the current laws are out-dated and need to be revised!
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Buz you really should be ashamed of yourself first of all because it should have absolutely nothing to do with it whether he is a foreigner or a local, the law should be the same for everyone. Secondly, you really REALLY believe people take drugs because somebody enticed them on the school playground? Come on! How can it make sense that a trafficker would want to sell it to children, adults have more cash. This over-dramatising is, indeed, something to vomit about... I repeat, ESPECIALLY because nobody flinches when a child abuser, usually somebody who was a guardian to the child or trusted by the family to protect the child, gets away almost scott free! Nobody blinks an eye. Let us just agree that the current laws are out-dated and need to be revised!
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Firstly I will say (to some of you on this page) that at least I have the courage not to hide behind a pseudonym. I feel I should clear up some confusion caused by those who have posted feelings without first researching their facts fully. Daniel had 5 mature plans and 27 cuttings, which were to replace the mature plants to keep the small supply going. And, if you do your homework, you will find that 50% of cuttings are likely to be male and have no THC content (so will be useless) and 50% of the rest are likely not to survive into maturity. All this is in a statement Daniel gave his lawyer but which Dr Grima failed to submit to the court, along with the fact that the leaves mentioned so often were wrapped in newspaper and in a box. These were the waste part of one plant Daniel had previously harvested and were awaiting disposal. He was hardly likely just to just put them outside his flat for the bin-men was he! Also, the useful weight obtainable from whole dried plants, in a controlled cultivation, according to an expert study (The United Nations 2006 World Drug Report) is approximately one third of the total weight; so about 354.55g in this case. They also conclude in that report that 30 plants would provide a reasonable supply for ONE person for a year. In this case there were two persons - Barry Lee and Daniel. The court just conveniently ignored Barry (as the co-accused) after he died in prison, assigning the whole cultivation to Daniel, rather than just his half. So you see, it is not as black and white as your judiciary would have you believe.
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5 plants is considered for personal use, but 32 plants puts him as a Drug Dealer. He got what he deserved, if he was caught with the same ammount in his country the sentence would have been much harsher. No use crying over spilt milk, face the music Mr. Holmes. You should have thought of your family before you commited the crime.
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@Karl Consiglio You need to vomit because a foreigner came to Malta with 32 plants equivalent to over 1000 grams of drugs to sell to our Children? The courts did their job although under pressure from family and Media. If the family thinks that they were unfairly treated they have the right to go to European court. But this court only see if his human rights were broken during trial. Our laws are clear.No one needs to be shamed this wasn't a first time user 5000 joint plus are not for personal use. No one is believing this.
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Mel Holmes dura lex sed lex. As found on other media. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2463582/Effects-cannabis-drove-Matthew-Leahy-insane-killed-him.html Think cannabis is harmless? It drove this grammar school boy insane - then killed him http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24739266 New Zealand hot air balloon crash pilot 'used cannabis'
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@maltesejustice. I worked at the Law courts for 4 years in 1995 and I know that some sentences makes your jaw drop.....I've seen people crying about justice not being done......off course we must have law and order in our country but it depends in which 'caste' you are. Judges are humans and prone to mistakes.....
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Ok, so this guy f***ed up, what he did was against the law, he knew it, and he should get some form of reform (please note I do not use the word punishment). However, Judges, can we put things into perspective please, because the rest of us here are totally losing faith in the Maltese Judicial System. Weed is, ultimately, a funny sort of tobacco that people may like to smoke to give them a mellow feeling. It is no class A drug and regular users could live normal lives even more so than an alcoholic, yet alcohol is legal and, for that matter, weed is legal or decriminalised in many EU countries too. Also, users are adults who are able to make decisions for themselves and no harm is done to others. Then, please explain, how is it that growing, using and selling this weed carries such a hefty criminal charge, when defiling a number of innocent, defenseless children who will likely be scarred for life carries a similar sentence. It is just sick.
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yes, mr holmes, the judges delved into the evidence, and disagreed with the version that your son is trying to portray. he was not a first time offender caught smoking a joint, but at best a first time drug producer.
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What I'm reading elsewhere about the 'reasoning' of these numbskulls makes no sense. The 'expert' somehow thought Daniel had enough to make 5000 joints. 600 grams of leaves (if accurate), at 1/2 gram per joint, equals 1,200 joints. TWO guys were growing / using. A heavy user can smoke 20 per day. That would result in a 30 day supply for personal use. A light user might smoke only 5 a day. Still only a 4-month supply for personal use. Thus why quantity alone can't be proof of REAL trafficking - as opposed to the Maltese definition of 'trafficking' being passing a joint to a friend... Time to legalize / decriminalize. These keystone cops and judges are clueless.
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I am disturbed to read the comments submitted and the deliberate naming of the Judges involved. I know all four judges to be extremely competent at Law and very fair and honest in their judgement. But the Law is the Law and they have to abide by the Law just as much as you and me have to as well. They cannot circumvent the Law and so if the sentence as confirmed is very harsh it is due to the severity of the Law. This was enacted at a time when drug addiction was on the ever increase in our youths and the severity of judgement was dramatically increased to curb this trend. The judges hands were tied but they are among the very best judges that we have in the Country. So stop hounding them and instead see whether a petition of clemency can be drawn and presented to the President of Malta. That in my opinion is the only way out.
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Simon Busutill and the PN is taking politics back to 40 years ago. They are harming Malta with threats that what this goveenment does will be removed when and if ever they are back in Government. We voters should be more than carefull and never vote for people who does not respect what a most legal and democratic government (36000 majority) legislate. The Pn is living in the Mintofian days.
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Our draconian courts never change. What would 10 years bring this offender in prison being a better person or going nuts with his family blown to pieces and our judiciary pompous rule of the mighty. We must follow the spirit of the law not the ad literam of it. Justices in Malta want to play God and may they rot in gehenna.
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Lino Camilleri
@rcasha The judgement was read by Mr Justice David Scicluna, who presided the court with Justice Abigail Lofaro and Justice Joseph Zammit McKeon.
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Apparently, the judge qualified comparisons of this sentence to others where more lenient sentences were meted out to worse crimes (such as the one where someone got the same sentence for raping 3 underage people) as odious. You know what is odious? The sentence given here is what is odious and the vile attempt to hide the incompetence, injustice and miscarriage of justice applied here is what is odious. Shame on the judges; shame on you. This is disgraceful. Daniel Holmes - you made a mistake and you should be punished for it. But what you're getting is way too harsh. I know this is not much use and will not help you much, but I sympathise with you - you have been unjustly treated. I am ashamed to be Maltese today.
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The names of those involved are no secret, so I will respond to the request to list them: Out lawyer was Dr Kenneth Grima The judge that gave the sentence was Mr."Justice" LAWRENCE QUINTANO The appeal judges were Judge David Scicluna, Judge Joseph Zammit McKeon and Judge Abigail Lofaro The Attorney General, who decided Daniel should face 4 to life, rather than 6 months to 10 years needs to explain why this decision was made, given that Daniel was a first-time offender.
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Sickening news I need to vomit.
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The names of those involved are no secret, so I will respond to the request to list them: Out lawyer was Dr Kenneth Grima The judge that gave the sentence was Mr."Justice" LAWRENCE QUINTANO The appeal judges were Judge David Scicluna, Judge Joseph Zammit McKeon and Judge Abigail Lofaro The Attorney General, who decided Daniel should face 4 to life, rather than 6 months to 10 years needs to explain why this decision was made, given that Daniel was a first-time offender.
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Was he cultivating 5 or 32 plants? 5 can be considered as personal use but 32 are surely intended for trafficking. What's the truth???
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Do our judges only reduce sentences upon receipt of a bribe? "...one cannot expect a reduction in punishment simply for not resisting arrest, the judge held." New judiciary, please.
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for the first time ever I am utterly ashamed to be a Maltese citizen!!!!
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I have have never heard anything so inhumane in my entire life. Are they blind to the evidence, or did our defence lawyer present such a bad case they they laughed it out of court?
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Another miscarriage of justice in our incompetent courts. Maybe the sentence was justified according to our archaic laws, the problem is that the courts use two weights and two measures when it comes to different judges ruling on the same crime. Mr Holmes happened to appear before a judge who was having a bad hair day and took out his aggravations on this foreigner and wanted to make a good example of Mr Holmes. If this appeal was listened to and these three judges agreed to lower the sentence given Mr Holmes, it would have the incompetence of the first judge who must have watched the movie Midnight Express once too many times. Birds of a feather stick together. I am sure Mr Holmes will appeal this harsh sentence to the EU Human Rights Court.
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Irrangaw il-ligi ghax il-pajjiz mghadux jafdaha .. u taf x'jigri meta ic-cittadini ma jafdax il-qrati tal-gustizzja? Il gustizzja jiehduha f'idejhom u jkollna anarkija apokalittika...
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I have have never heard anything so inhumane in my entire life. Are they blind to the evidence, or did our defence lawyer present such a bad case they they laughed it out of court?
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Such unbelievable utter stupidity and callousness on the part of this judiciary makes one lose all faith in the fairness and justice of the Maltese courts. Shame, shame, shame on these 'judges'. Truly the most pajjiz tal-mickey mouse judgement in a year full of mickey-mouseness.
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I have have never heard anything so inhumane in my entire life. Are they blind to the evidence, or did our defence lawyer present such a bad case they they laughed it out of court?
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Please publish the names of the members of the judiciary responsible for this verdict. The public needs to know who are the incompetent ones so that pressure can be applied for them to be removed from their positions.