Source: Plymouth Herald
Friday 16 January 2009
A CANNABIS campaigner who admitted supplying the class C drugs to other pain sufferers has escaped a jail sentence – but received a stern warning from a judge.
During sentencing at Plymouth Crown Court, Judge Francis Gilbert made it clear to Stuart Wyatt – who wants to see cannabis legalised for use in pain relief – that he was not above the law.
During an exchange with Wyatt’s advocate Ali Rafati, Judge Gilbert responded sharply to the news that the 36-year-old’s “use of cannabis was ongoing” to mitigate the pain he constantly suffered.
Judge Gilbert replied: “Well, that’s his misfortune, isn’t it? I’m afraid the reality is your client is or has been acting illegally and breaking the law.”
He said that while Wyatt might feel he had some justification to use cannabis, “I do not”, but added: “As an act of mercy, I will suspend sentence. He must face the consequences if he chooses to break the law again.”
Prosecutor David Gittins explained how police had arrested Wyatt – a former fiddle player with Irish folk-rock band Mad Dog McRea – at his home in St Mary Street, Stonehouse, on June 12 last year.
They had attended on an unrelated matter, but searched the premises and found quantities of herbal matter and a small hydroponic growing set-up.
While initial weighing suggested the drugs amounted to 714g, it was finally agreed by police and the Crown Prosecution Service that much of this consisted of unusable twigs and remains rather than leaves and buds.
Wyatt, who has a working diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome (ME), but is also being tested for multiple sclerosis, was interviewed and admitted that for the previous five months he had produced cannabis.
Mr Gittins said Wyatt had told police he used the drugs purely for medicinal purposes, often turning it into a paste which he applied to his body to ease the pain he suffered.
He also admitted he supplied the paste to other people who also suffered painful conditions, who in turn passed it on to more people in similar circumstances.
Mr Gittins revealed Wyatt never sold the paste or received any financial benefit from passing on the cannabis. He also recognised Wyatt had no previous convictions.
In mitigation, defence barrister Ali Rafati drew the judge’s attention to the pre-sentence report and reports from doctors at Derriford Hospital who authenticated Wyatt’s suffering and the positive effects of the cannabis on his body.
He claimed Wyatt’s condition was “incredibly debilitating” and that he endured “a difficult life”.
However, in sentencing, Judge Gilbert emphasised Wyatt could no longer break the law, and told him if he had received any money for the drug he would have gone to prison.
“You must understand cannabis is an illegal drug, whatever view you have about it,” he said. “It’s not your privilege to choose whether what you do is lawful or illegal. There is no excuse. You’re subject to the law like any other person.”
He then sentenced Wyatt to eight months for producing cannabis and 12 months for supplying cannabis, to run concurrently, before suspending it for two years.
Outside court Wyatt, supporting himself on two walking sticks, said: “I’m shocked that after two years of trying to get a dialogue or debate within Government, I’m not allowed to say a word in court.
“I’m stuck in the position that the only drugs available to me – anti- psychotic or anti-depressant drugs with pain-killing effects – would cause damage to my mental health. My mental health is the only healthy part of my body that remains”, he said.
“Cannabis works for me and many other people. There are about 30 or 40 people I know of in Plymouth who use cannabis to combat the pain they endure.
“If I’m caught using cannabis I will be sent to prison – where, ironically, I can get even more drugs.”
Asked if he would continue to help others by supplying cannabis, Wyatt replied, “definitely not.”
When asked if he could or would stop using cannabis himself for the next two years, Wyatt smiled before answering, “No comment”.Republish