COURT: Lematia Monday, the evils of the international trade in dangerous drugs, particularly a drug as potent and as unpleasant asheroin, are very well known. I do not intend to say any more about it. People more eloquent than I have spoken at great length aboutthose evils.
The fact is that you willingly lent your assistance to this evil trade – and it is an evil trade – in bringing in a quite significantquantity of heroin into Hong Kong.
What aggravates your offence is the international aspect of this case. You smuggled into Hong Kong from somewhere in Africa, as Isaid, a not insignificant quantity of heroin. I have no doubt that those who employed you intended, once they had got their handson it in Hong Kong, to pass it on to traffickers, pushers, somewhere within the mainland, somewhere within the People’s Republicof China.
That is very much an aggravating factor in your case.
Judges in Hong Kong have made it clear in the past, and I make it clear now, and no doubt will do so in the future, that Hong Kongis not going to gain the reputation of being a drugs distribution centre for greater China.
I am aware that you are of a clear record. You are now a woman in mid-life, and it is certainly to your credit that you have got thisfar without committing a criminal offence. But I have to tell you, as I have no doubt your counsel, Mr Geoffrey Chang, has told you,a clear record counts for very little when it comes to a judge sentencing a person who has involved themselves in trafficking indangerous drugs.
Mr Chang has spoken very eloquently about your family circumstances – how you are now a widow, and how you have been left with thecare of five children – and obviously I have very great sympathy for you. But I have to bear this in mind. In this world, in Africa,South America, North America, Europe, Asia, there are millions of people who find themselves in just the same circumstances thatyou found yourself in, and yet very, very few of them resort to trafficking in dangerous drugs in order to alleviate their unhappinessor their bad economic circumstances.
I am aware that you have a medical condition. I can assure you that you will receive full and proper medical treatment whilst youare in prison. If you are sick, you will be properly cared for, I can assure you of that.
Mr Chang, I know, has told you that in Hong Kong, the Court of Appeal has laid down in a number of cases guidelines for all judgesand magistrates as to how we should sentence people who engage in trafficking in dangerous drugs. He will have told you that we areexpected to stick to those guidelines unless there are very good reasons for us not to do so, and I have to tell you that in yourcase, there are no such very good reasons. I must follow those guidelines.
As I said, I am aware of your family circumstances, but quite frankly, I cannot regard that as a mitigating factor. You do have mitigation,and it is the most powerful mitigation a defendant can have, and that is the fact that you are remorseful. You have indicated yourremorse by pleading guilty, and by pleading guilty at a very early stage in the criminal proceedings against you, and you will receivedue recognition for your remorse and plea of guilty.
In a case like this, where I am concerned with a mixture weighing 1.2 kilograms which had an active heroin content, regardless ofthe chemical composition of the two types of heroin, of 680 grammes, I have to bear in mind that had you pleaded not guilty, hadyou contested this case, had it come to the High Court for trial, had a jury, after hearing all the evidence, convicted you of thisoffence, then given the weight of the heroin content in what you brought in to Hong Kong, I would have had to have had in mind, followingthose guidelines I have spoken of, a sentence of at least 20 years’ imprisonment, and to that, again following what the Court ofAppeal has said for my guidance, I would have had to add an extra 1 year to that sentence to take account of the fact that you area heroin smuggler, and that you brought this filthy substance in to Hong Kong from outside.
So after trial, you would have been looking at a sentence of 21 years’ imprisonment.
Because of your mitigation, because of your plea of guilty, I am permitted to reduce that sentence very considerably, and in factit is well established that I can reduce it by as much as one-third, and I am going to do that. I am going to reduce it from a sentenceof 21 years’ imprisonment to one of 14 years’ imprisonment, and that is the sentence that I now pass on you.
You will be told by officials in the Correctional Services Department of the date from which that sentence is calculated. I can tellyou now, as you have been in custody, you have already started to serve part of it. The Correctional Services Department officialswill also inform you of the earliest date on which, under Hong Kong law, you can expect release from prison.