An Appeals Court has confirmed a 10-year prison sentence for Briton Daniel Holmes, after the accused tried to get his punishment reduced in an appeal that raised the public’s awareness on the harshness of Malta’s drug laws.
Judges Joseph Zammit McKeon, Abigail Lofaro and David Scicluna, presided over the court of criminal appeal.
Daniel Alexander Holmes (pictured) was appealing a jail term of 10 year, six months and a €23,000 fine, after facing five charges of drug possession and trafficking, four of which carried a life sentence, related to the discovery of a cannabis plant in his Gozo home. Holmes admitted to all charges ahead of a trial by jury.
In its sentence, the court of criminal appeal said it would not disturb the first court’s judgement simply because of its severity.
“This was an appeal from punishment, which was well within the parameters of the law, as the maximum was a life sentence,” Mr Justice David Scicluna said.
In court, where he was flanked by his wife Marzena, Holmes listened attentively to Scicluna delivering his decision. “The defence overlooked the fact that the crime was continuously spread over a period of five years. Albeit claiming to be a cannabis addict himself, the 32 plants and the set-up found at Holmes’s residence prove it was in fact a production line.”
During police searches no evidence of smoked cannabis was found, however the police found clearly marked packets containing cannabis, including a box with 600 grams of dried cannabis leaves. The only evidence of drug consumed inside the residence was a bottle of water containing traces of cocaine.
In his statement to the police, Holmes had claimed Barry Lee was an accomplice and that he had taken responsibility of what was found at his residence. Lee committed suicide in prison in 2008.
“The defence held that the appellant helped the police, however one cannot expect a reduction in punishment simply for not resisting arrest,” judge Scicluna held.
“Those concerned over the suffering their family goes through due to their conviction, should consider this before embarking on criminal activity. Having a family is not a reason to disturb a court’s decision,” the judge said.
In a comment posted in MaltaToday’s comment board, father Mel Holmes said he had never witnessed anything as inhumane in his life as before. “I have never heard anything so inhumane in my entire life. Are they blind to the evidence, or did our defence lawyer present such a bad case they they laughed it out of court?”
Holmes’s defence counsel had told the court how the Briton accused of the trafficking of drugs, ostensibly after a cannabis plant was found at his house, lived in an old, ugly and decrepit apartment, a far cry from the prosecution’s claim of living in luxury.
In his submissions, Kenneth Grima had said the convict was no drug baron, but someone who could not even afford a paltry €150 rent that was always paid by his parents, and who still owed his landlord €400 in water and electricity bills.
Court expert Godwin Sammut had found that the plants found had weighed in their totality, including the roots and stalks, 1,063g – but under oath he stated that this was the weight of the leaves alone, which would lead to a street value of €13,800.
Since Holmes’s conviction, the law had changed so that first-time offenders are not liable to criminal proceedings. But the judge had delivered a prison sentence that was 40% harsher over the eight years requested by the prosecution.
The case generated a public outcry over the harsheness of the sentence, led to a public petition. Holmes, who spent 14 months under preventive arrest, had managed to kick his habit, found a job as a chef, and was in a stable relationship with a Polish woman who had given him a daughter.
Dr Maxine Bonnet appeared for the Attorney General while lawyers Kenneth and Christina Grima appeared for Holmes.