R v Aramah

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal (Criminal Division)
JudgeTHE LORD CHIEF JUSTICE
Judgment Date17 December 1982
Judgment citation (vLex)[1982] EWCA Crim J1217-1
Docket NumberNo. 3742/B/82
Date17 December 1982

[1982] EWCA Crim J1217-1

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL

CRIMINAL DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice

Before:

The Lord Chief Justice of England (Lord Lane)

and

Mr. Justice Talbot

No. 3742/B/82

Regina
and
John Uzu Aramah

MR. C. BEYTS appeared on behalf of the Appellant.

THE LORD CHIEF JUSTICE
1

On 28th June this year at the Crown Court at Chelmsford before Hie Honour Judge Butler and a jury, this appellant was convicted of being concerned in the importation of herbal cannabis and sentenced to six years' imprisonment. He now appeals against that sentence by leave of the single Judge.

2

The facts are these. It happened shortly after midnight on 22nd Feburary this year, when police officers in Tilbury Docks saw four men standing round a motor vehicle parked a little distance away from the West African Terminal. The police officers stopped their van in front of that motor vehicle and detained the appellant. He was sitting in the driver's seat. The other four men who were concerned ran away. On searching the vehicle the police officers discovered four plastic bags each containing a number of packages of herbal cannabis, weighing just over 59 kilogrammes. The streel level value of that herbal cannabis was between £100,000 and £130,000. The appellant was searched and wire cutters were found in his pocket.

3

He was taken to the police station and, after having fenced with the police for a time, he told the officers the story of how the cannabis had been imported on board a vessel berthed at the West African Terminal and how he had been concerned with another man called Kamara, who was jointly charged with him.

4

This was a typical example of the importation of a very large amount large of cannabis which, promisal to produce large profits for those who were concerned.

5

As for the appellant himself, he is aged 50. He is married with three children, one of them, we are told, is very young. He is a British Citizen born in Nigeria and came to this country in 1956. He has had various employments in this country since that time and periods of unemployment as well. He has unhappily recorded against him two offences which bear similarity to that with which we are dealing today: the first in 1968, for possession of cannabis and possession of amphetamines, for which he was fined £15 on each count; and more importantly, in September 1972, at Middlesex Quarter Sessions, for the importation of 88 Kilogrammes of cannabis and possession of 14.2 kilogrammes of the same substance, he received three years' imprisonment concurrent on each count.

6

We have been invited by Mr. Beyts, appearing on his behalf, to reduce the sentence on the following grounds. First of all he suggests that where there has been a previous conviction of this sort, as the one I have just mentioned, there should be a progressive increase of the term of imprisonment and not a sudden jump, from three years to six. Secondly he submits that the offence was not planned and was not sophisticated. Of course it had to be planned in order to get this quantity of cannabis on to the ship and then on arrival to get the cannabis off the ship avoiding customs and excise authorities. He says there are no exceptional features to the case. He points out, presumably as a suggestion, that this man was not the main instigator behind the offence but he, the appellant, was present at the dangerous moment of the sortie, that is to say when the goods were taken off the ship and taken out of the dock. He points out finally that the appellant is not rich, he was not living in an extravagant way, his wife works as a cook in a bank London, he has three children and lives in a council house.

7

All these are matters which we have to take into consideration, but before we deal with this particular case, it may be of assistance if we make some general observations about the level of sentences for drug offences, since our list, as will have been observed, is entirely composed of such crimes.

8

Class 'A' Drugs and particularly Heroin and Morphine:

9

It is common knowledge that these are the most dangerous of all the addictive drugs for a number of reasons: first of all, they are easy to handle. Small parcels can be made up into huge numbers of doses. Secondly, the profits are so enormous that they attract the worst type of criminal. Many of such criminals may think, and indeed do think, that it is less dangerous and more profitable to traffic in heroin or morphine than it is to rob a bank. It does not require much imagination to realise the consequential evils of corruption and bribery which the huge profits are likely to produce. This factor is also important when considering the advisability of granting bail. Sums which to the ordinary...

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    ...has recently given guidance to judges as to the appropriate sentences to be passed in cases involving prohibited drugs. The case is R. v. Aramah, reported at the end of last year. In that case, dealing with Cannabis, the Lord Chief Justice said this: "Medium quantities over 20 kilogram......
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    ...always warrants an immediate custodial sentence, usually of between 4 to 6 years' duration, in accordance with the cases starting with R v Aramah (1982) 4 Cr App R(S) 407 down to the very recent case of R v Quick [2009] 2 Cr App R(S) 44. 7 The principal exception to that approach arises in ......
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