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Damaged by drugs charge - Wife walks out of marriage after husband’s weed trial drags on for four years

Published:Sunday | May 29, 2016 | 5:00 AMBarbara Gayle
File Packages of compressed ganja seized by the police before they could be exported.

Four years after being hit with an illegal drugs charge, 30-year-old Germaine Hylton of Montego Bay, St James, is a free man, but he remains bitter that the State charged him for a crime he did not commit. Also, his wife walked out of the marriage because she could not deal with the stress caused by the slow justice system.

Hylton's troubles began on February 1, 2012, when policemen went to his workplace in Montego Bay and took him into custody.

He had to postpone his wedding, which was set for less than two weeks later as he spent almost three weeks in custody before he was granted bail.

The wedding finally took place on February 24, 2012, but, according to Hylton, the drugs charge robbed the historic event of much of its joy, and his wife was constantly questioned about when the case was going to end.

Hylton said a year after they were married, his wife, who is from England, became frustrated with the length of time the case was taking and went back home.

The case also affected his nine-year-old daughter, and, Hylton said, whenever he was going to court, she would say, "Daddy, I am praying for you."

He attended the St Andrew Resident Magistrate's court on several occasions, but the trial was repeatedly postponed for various reasons.

Hylton, who has been employed to the Rainforest Sea Foods in Montego Bay for nine years, said his employers were very supportive of him during his ordeal, but the case caused financial strain as he had to find money to pay legal fees as well as travelling expenses from Montego Bay to Kingston and back to attend court.

"When the police came to ask me about a 2009 shipment, I did not know what they were talking about because it was such a long time ago and I am a law-abiding citizen," said Hylton.

He was subsequently arrested and charged with possession of ganja, dealing in ganja, and attempting to export ganja.

According to Hylton, on October 21, 2009, he went to a shipping company in Newport West and delivered a three-piece sofa and cushions for shipment.

He said he presented all his particulars, including his address and driver's licence, to the warehouse foreman and met with the export coordinator to negotiate a lower shipping price as he was a regular customer.

The sofa shipment was reportedly subjected to a canine search and no drugs were found before it was packaged for export. It was taken to the wharf, where it went through a security X-ray.

Later that day, members of the Contraband Enforcement Team were alerted to an export shipment in a wooden crate, and compressed ganja weighing 136 pounds was allegedly found concealed in a false compartment in the crate.

Following investigations by the police, Hylton was linked to the shipment and he was subsequently charged with breaches of the Dangerous Drug Act.

When the matter was finally tried, attorney-at-law Philip Bernard, who represented Hylton, pointed out that the shipment was subject to two separate searches after they were delivered and no drugs had been found.

Bernard further argued that Bernard had no access to the crate, where the drugs had been found.

Parish Judge Maxine Ellis agreed with Bernard and declared that she had reasonable doubt about the Crown's case and could not convict Hylton, who remains at a loss that he was charged in the first place.

For Bernard, Hylton's case is a stark reminder that "justice delayed is justice denied".

He argued that a case should never take four years to be tried and added that the lack of resources in the system could result in a miscarriage of justice for an accused person.