Anitha Qualis, the 35-year-old mother of four who was found with 503 grams of marijuana in her possession, was sentenced to two years imprisonment and fined $754,000 by Magistrate Crystal Lambert.
The law stipulates that the offence warrants a minimum of three years imprisonment, but Magistrate Lambert agreed with the woman’s attorney, Siand Dhurjon that there were sufficient and exceptional reasons to go below the mandatory minimum provided for in the Narcotics Act.
The Magistrate, however, disagreed with Dhurjon’s impassioned submissions that the accused should be given no sentence of imprisonment on compassionate grounds.
Dhurjon had highlighted that Qualis was deprived of having opportunities in life to advanced herself. He explained that she did not attend secondary school and was a victim of sexual abuse.
He explained that Qualis had her first child, who is now 16, when she (Qualis) was 15-years-old.
The attorney further explained that Qualis also bore three other children during the course of an abusive six-year relationship; they are ages 10, 14 and 15.
He told the court that, as a woman, Qualis was belittled and abused and kept down by her long-time partner who eventually abandoned her.
Attorney Dhurjon added that after his client lost her job at a snackette, she felt an “irresistible compulsion” to do all things necessary to feed her starving children.
He also explained that Qualis has had no criminal involvement save for this incident.
For all of these reasons, when the Magistrate handed down the sentence, Dhurjon applied for the suspension of the sentence under the Criminal Law Reform Act, Cap.11:05 which would have meant that Qualis would be released and if she reoffends then she would be reincarcerated.
But the Magistrate refused the application.
The prosecution’s case stated that at 14:30hrs on September 19, ranks were on mobile patrol duty at Karrau Village, Essequibo River, when they observed the woman acting in a suspicious manner.
The woman was questioned and she handed over a black compress parcel containing a quantity of leaves, seeds, and stems suspected to be cannabis, which was hidden underneath her clothing. She was arrested and taken to the Bartica Police Station.
During her court appearance on September 22, Qualis told the court that: “I accepted the weed, I am a mother of four, and my children’s father left for the interior, and I never heard from him again. I decided to try a thing to provide for my children.”