Drug duo jailed for possession of ice

By Joyetter Luamanu ,

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GOING TO JAIL: Scott Barlow and Fatu Vagana. (File Photo)

GOING TO JAIL: Scott Barlow and Fatu Vagana. (File Photo)

Two men found guilty of possession of methamphetamine, also known as ice, have been jailed by the Supreme Court.

The sentence for drug defendants, Scott Barlow and Fatu Vagana, was delivered by Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala Warren.

Vagana was sentenced to four years and six months.

Barlow was sentenced to four years and for additional charges on paraphernalia, he was sentenced to 12 months which he will serve concurrently. 

Prosecuting the case was Ofisa Tagaloa and Luaipou Ann Matalasi of the Attorney General’s Office. 

Barlow was represented by Aumua Ming Leung Wai while Lei’ataua Jerry Brunt represented Vagana. 

Earlier this month, the defendants were found guilty of having in their possession three small plastic bags of methamphetamine. 

In addition, Barlow was convicted of possession of drugs paraphernalia. 

Justice Tafaoimalo stated that according to the evidence, the defendants went in a taxi to Fagali’i airport. 

Barlow uplifted an envelope addressed to a “Penina Setu” arriving on a Talofa Airways flight from American Samoa. Vagana waited in the taxi and as it turns out, a bag arrived and upon searched by a Customs officer, drugs were found. 

“The taxi was searched by Police and a glass pipe was found in the taxi. 

“This glass pipe had been brought out of Scott’s (Barlow) car at home and put into the taxi by the taxi driver on Scott’s instruction.

“Both Scott and Fatu knew about the arrival of the drugs and went to pick up the drugs. Fatu knew the names of the sender and receiver and told Scott these names. 

“The methamphetamine was confirmed through testing at the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa. The quantity of methamphetamine in the 3 packets was 5.9 grams in total,” said Justice Tafaoimalo. 

She pointed out the Barlow has previous convictions in 2014, two for possession of narcotics, two for possession of utensils and in 2017 for possession of firearm, presenting firearm and breach of sentence conditions.  

 Regarding the aggravating features of the offense, Justice Tafaoimalo noted that attempting to bring illegal drugs into the country shows a high level of brashness in the commission of this offence. 

“Fatu organised the importation of the drugs and Scott went inside the airport to clear the drugs through Customs and quarantine. 

“I find Fatu’s culpability to be higher than Scott’s who went to uplift the narcotics.

“There is a high level of premeditation on the part of Fatu who organised the importation of the narcotics. 

“There is also, I find, premeditation to a lesser extent on the part of Scott found in his active participation in going to the airport with Fatu in a taxi which he organised, going inside the airport and attempting to clear the bag from Customs and quarantine.

“The offending had a commercial intent behind it given the evidence. 

“Fatu says he does not consume narcotics. 

“I found that Fatu wanted help to sell the narcotics and Scott had agreed, while also hoping to smoke some himself. 

“This commercial intent further aggravates this offending,” stated the Supreme Court Justice. 

On mitigating factors, for Barlow, Justice Tafaoimalo took into account the character testimonials in his favour; particularly striking is the letter from his daughter.

“I take into account his personal circumstances, in particular his young children, who are being victimised at school through no fault of their own. 

“They are the unfortunate victims of this offending.” 

As for Vagana, Justice Tafaoimalo considered his personal circumstances, being separated from his family and his health concerns.

Submissions by prosecution, seeks a starting point of nine years imprisonment for Barlow and eight years and six months imprisonment for Vagana. 

Aumua indicated that imprisonment for his client was not appropriate and that the accused will be better served by attending rehabilitation programs like those offered by the Alcohol and Drugs Court. 

Leiataua on the other hand, asked the court for a community-based sentence of supervision is more appropriate.

“It is evident from these cases is that custodial sentences are a certainty when dealing with class A narcotics, regardless of the quantity, given its penalty of life imprisonment.

“Methamphetamine is a particularly destructive drug for users; it is highly addictive with profound mental and physical side effects. 

“It induces aggressive and irrational behaviour, and is regularly responsible for other offending involving extreme violence, a phenomenon not commonly associated with other drugs. 

“It has created a thriving industry, in which organised crime is heavily involved.

“Sentiments have been expressed by my fellow judges about the undesirability of these hard drugs in Samoa. 

“As indicated, in cases where small quantities of methamphetamine have been imported for personal consumption, it is open to sentencing Judges to treat band one as not applicable. 

“We emphasise that these bands are otherwise applicable to all who import methamphetamine, including those whose roles are as “mules”. 

“Obviously the more significant the role of the offender in any importation, the closer the appropriate sentence will be to the top end of the relevant sentencing band.” 

Aumua’s request for Barlow to undergo rehabilitation was denied by Justice Tafaoimalo.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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