Sistah Joyce at the 2012 calypso competition in Road Town where she was judged first-runner up with her song 'Talk Is Cheap'.
Photo Credit: Melissa Edwards/BVI Platinum News
After investing $1,400.00 to purchase marijuana, local artist Joycelyn Searles, known as 'Sistah Joyce' of Virgin Gorda (VG) was today sentenced to two years in prison with a suspension of three years and fined $40,000.00. Searles was charged with unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to supply involving close to $5,000 worth of drugs.
After pleas from both Searles and her lawyer Herbert McKenzie for her not to receive a custodial sentence, Senior Magistrate Valerie Stephens said she took into account her guilty plea and previous good character; however, she noted that the charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison or a 100,000 fine.
The Senior Magistrate said the offence is serious and warrants a custodial sentence given the amount of cannabis involved. Stephens then sentenced Searles to two years in prison with a suspension of three years and if Searles commits another criminal offence within three months, the two year sentence will be activated by the court.
Further, she was fined $40,000.00 or six months in prison. Her lawyer pleaded with the court for the fine to be paid in installments and Stephens said this can be done, but $5,000.00 must be paid today.
McKenzie then asked if his client can be given about six months to pay or at least at the end of January; however, Stephens said she will not allow that, rather Searles has until December 31, 2012 to pay the total amount of $40,000.00.
Searles' lawyer also asked that the $5,000 for today be reduced, but Stephens said, "no, it remains at $5,000."
McKenzie during plea in mitigation for his client said she pleaded guilty to the offence involving 452 grams of cannabis at the earliest possible time, she has no previous conviction and has three children who depend on her for support. He said she is currently employed at Delta Gas Station on VG as a Customer Service Agent.
McKenzie said from the outset when she was confronted about the bag she was carrying, Searles came clean to Police and told them her intended purpose. McKenzie said while no offence can be justified, she told Police why she had the drugs, which mainly because she had a need and had invested $1,400.00. However, she has realized that the investment was an unwise expense.
He asked the court not to send her jail, noting that the incident has caused both her family and her embarrassment.
Meanwhile, Searles also apologized to the court, family, her children and her fans for her actions and asked the court to be lenient towards her and not send her to jail, but order a fine.
She said she has taken full responsibility for her actions and has vowed not to walk into such activities again.
According to Police, on April 3 Searles was caught with just over a pound of marijuana. Police stated that Searles was in the ferry terminal when Police detected a heavy scent of marijuana in the area.
According to Police, Searles was approached, searched and found with the cannabis.
It was stated earlier in court that Searles told Police that she was suspended from her job and invested monies into purchasing the marijuana to sell and smoke.