Roughly one week after a court in Jersey sentenced an ecstasy dealer to almost 400 hours of community service, the Law Officers’ Department announced that they have considered appealing the sentence in an effort to impose a prison sentence of two years. The sentence was controversially handed down without the unanimous agreement of other court officials and without consideration of the prosecution’s recommendation.
Joel Lewis, 19, was recently sentenced to 384 hours of community service for orchestrating an elaborate MDMA and ecstasy distribution scheme. At an earlier hearing, Lewis was convicted of one count of importing an illegal substance and three counts of possession of an illegal substance. The former Victoria College student, in short, had been ordering drugs from darkweb vendors; providing the vendor with the address of various hotels; picking up the packages under a false identity; distributing the product to several co-conspirators who distributed the product and then payed Lewis. He repeated the process for months and the demand for MDMA and ecstasy increased to the point where Lewis had been ordering more than 300 pills per order.
His operation only ended after employees at one hotel grew suspicious of a package that had arrived for someone who had not been staying at the hotel. Upon arrival of the package, Lewis called the hotel and asked employees to hold it for him as he would be checking into the hotel later that day for a business meeting. Employees were not convinced. They called local police and asked what they should do with the package. The police also believed the situation warranted police intervention. Officers traveled to the hotel and examined the package; inside the package, according to information revealed in court, the police found 304 ecstasy pills. They reported the value of the pills at €12,000 ($15,860).
The police left the package with the hotel and gave the employees instructions on handling the situation. Those instructions were not detailed in the courtroom but the events that followed the police’s departure indicated that the police instructed the employees to simply play along with the package recipient when or if he arrived to retrieve the package. Later that day, a teenager using the name “Pierce Walters” arrived to pick up the package and check into a hotel room under the same name. Information revealed in court revealed that the teenager had only attempted to rent a room. He likely never managed to rent one as he attended classes the following day that would have made the timing inconvenient. The police returned to the hotel the following day and picked up the security footage from the cameras in the hotel. They identified the teenager who had picked up the package as Joel Lewis and arrested him at Victoria College hours later.
Lewis, once in custody, “wrote his own indictment.” He admitted he a had ordered the package and that shortly before he had picked up the package in question, he had picked up another one at a different hotel. He told the police that he had been ordering packages of MDMA and ecstasy to hotels fairly regularly and for a length of time not disclosed during the hearing. He said that he passed off the drugs to his co-conspirators for distribution so that he “didn’t get his hands dirty.” The police arrested him and charged him with the possession and importation crimes he was later found guilty of committing.
During the sentencing hearing, the Crown requested a sentence of 54 months in youth detention. The Crown also pointed out that the usual base sentence for the crimes in question was at least four years in prison and that the Crown’s request was reasonable. Advocate Sarah Dale told the court that Lewis was pursuing a career in the British Army and a community service sentence would allow him to continue to pursue his career path. Deputy Bailiff Tim Le Cocq agreed and handed down a sentence of 384 hours of community service. The Deputy Bailiff noted that the Jurats had not unanimously agreed about the non-custodial sentence.
Many have raised concerns that the sentence was unreasonably light and that it reflected a “drugs culture” at Victoria College. The school issued a statement that they will work with police and have a stronger drug policy. The Law Officers’ Department, though, revealed that Attorney General Robert MacRae has been considering appealing the sentence. The decision is far from a surprise.