Court downgrades heavy user's heroin trafficking conviction to simple possession

A man’s conviction for aggravated possession and trafficking heroin has been downgraded to simple possession on appeal, in part on account of his heavy drug use

 Experts established the heroin to have been 41.7% pure, said the court.
Experts established the heroin to have been 41.7% pure, said the court.

42-year-old Duncan Scerri from Bugibba was arrested and charged with aggravated possession of heroin, following a police surveillance operation in April, 2006.

Police moved in just as Scerri had met a third party outside his house in Bugibba. Three sachets containing around half a gram of what was later established to be heroin was found on his person, while another 37 grams were found inside his house. No cash was found on Scerri’s person and no drugs or cash were found in the possession of the other individual.

Experts had established the heroin to have been 41.7% pure.

A search of the accused's residence returned a number of  items related to drug abuse together with almost Lm350 (€815.28) in cash.

Scerri told the court that he had been a heavy user of heroin at the time and would consume six doses daily.  The man also explained how at the time, he had been living on social benefits amounting to Lm25 a week. However, despite having to pay Lm100 in rent every month, he said he would spend around Lm23 daily on his drug habit. The cash found at his home had been given to him by his mother to cover three months’ rent, he claimed.

The Magistrates’ Court originally found Scerri guilty of aggravated drug possession, jailing him for four years and imposing a €3,000 fine, but he had then filed an appeal, insisting that he ought to have only been found guilty of simple possession.

The court of appeal, with Mr Justice Giovanni Grixti presiding, ruled that the absence of drugs or cash in the possession of the third party who had met the accused right before his arrest, led it to the logical conclusion that no trafficking had occurred on that particular occasion.

The physical evidence also did not support the theory that Scerri had been preparing heroin sachets intended for trafficking, observed the court.

The circumstances pointed more to the accused being a heavy user who wanted to ensure that he was never caught out without his daily hits, ruled the judge, partially overturning the decision by the lower court.

Scerri was declared guilty of simple possession of heroin, the court reducing his punishment to a €1000 fine, but confirming the accused’s liability for costs related to the appointment of court experts the destruction of the drugs.

Lawyer Edward Gatt was defence counsel to Scerri.

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