Pubdate: Thu, 26 Jun 2003
Source: Royal Gazette, The (Bermuda)
Copyright: 2003 The Royal Gazette Ltd.
Author:  Matthew Taylor


Whatever the lawyers may think, Bermuda and American authorities are 
squarely behind fining cruise ship passengers $1,000 for importing small 
amounts of cannabis.

Government funds have been boosted by thousands of dollars this season as 
groups of visitors regularly appear in court to pay the fixed penalty.

Recently four leading defence lawyers questioned the point, saying it would 
damage tourism and it was more important to go after the big guys.

However Narcotics chief Supt. Larry Smith told The Royal Gazette: "We in 
narcotics and all of the Bermuda Police Service does not neglect all areas 
of crime and drug related offences, either big or small.

"When you rummage for drugs you don't know what you are going to find or 
the amount as the evidence suggests a few days ago."

He was referring to the arrest and conviction of Honduran drug mule Junior 
Packs who brought in $22,000 of cannabis on the Horizon on June 9 and was 
jailed for two years on Friday.

Supt. Smith accused the lawyers of tunnel vision and said a visitor under 
the influence of cannabis could end up being hurt in a road accident on a 
rented bike or suffer even worse.

"There's a loss of coordination. They could be subjected to sexual assault 
or robbery or even to the most heinous crime - murder. "A short term fix 
could damage Bermuda's reputation as a tourism destination."

No other country in the world would turn a blind eye to people bringing in 
drugs, said Supt. Smith.

He said if visitors were given breaks on sentencing for importation, then 
authorities would be obliged to go the same route with Bermudians returning 
with drugs.

Asked about the lack of large scale seizures this summer from cruise ships, 
Supt. Smith said it didn't necessarily indicate a lack of success on the 
part of his team.

He said it could indicate smugglers, who traditionally use the cruise ship 
route in the summer, were being deterred by the rummaging policy.

Asked if the canine units were used to search every ship, he said: "We use 
the dogs as frequently as we can."

The Police Narcotics chief said drug availability on the Island could be 
judged by street prices but there was no intelligence to say they had 
changed this summer.

Home Affairs Minister Terry Lister said the policy of dealing with tourists 
with small amounts of drugs had been debated within Government during the 

He said it had been agreed to get the ship owners to post warnings 
throughout the cruise ships warning them not to bring drugs in. Since the 
season started Government had moved a step further and requested staff talk 
to passengers, warning them not to have any drugs when the ship docks.

"If it's for recreational use they should throw them over the side. Some 
people believe if you don't bring them onshore they are okay," he said.

"We are quite willing for these people, these tourists to remove themselves 
from potential prosecution by going in that manner."

Americans convicted for drug offences were put on a stop list for two years 
after which they could apply to come off, said the Minister.

"We have to do what's being done from a policing point of view," said Mr. 
Lister. "We must protect our borders."

Dogs searched for drugs regardless of the amount, said Mr. Lister.

"It could be a kilo of drugs or one marijuana spliff. The dog doesn't know 
the difference."

Government was keen on nabbing the big scale drug importers, said Mr. Lister.

"We have to use these tactics to make sure we are detecting them."

US Consul General Denis Coleman shed no tears for compatriots hit by the 
$1,000 fines.

He said: "I think Government is fairly administering its policy. Laws are 
getting enforced across the board.

"We are concerned if our citizens are discriminated against but to the 
extent that citizens break the law and are held to a consistent standard 
with citizens from other countries for punishment, that's appropriate."
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