Papatapu Tati appeared before Chief Justice Sir Hugh Williams QC on one charge of possession of cannabis.
Police prosecutor Senior Sergeant Fairoa Tararo said the defendant faced the maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment or a $5000 fine, or both, but the prosecution recommended 12-months’ probation with community services as it was his first offence.
Defence counsel Norman George said the case involved only one cannabis plant which was given to the defendant by a friend and he did not cultivate it.
George said the defendant has two children of his own, two siblings and a partner that depend on him.
Chief Justice Williams said this was the defendant’s first appearance in court and pleaded guilty.
He said the defendant was extremely fortunate as he was only facing a charge of possession of cannabis and not cultivation.
The fact of the matter was that on August 25, 2018 a search warrant was executed on the defendant’s property and a cannabis plant was found in a pot plant in his room.
Chief Justice Williams said Probation Services noted that the defendant came from Penrhyn for his children and has been residing at his partner’s home since 2010.
“Prosecutors here in the Cook Islands have been urging the court to place more serious sentences in all charges involving marijuana because of its availability in the Cook Islands and the fact that offending involved in marijuana is on the increase.
“I gave serious consideration that I don’t send you to jail, largely because of the recommendation of Probation Service and the police prosecutor, but if you offend again you will almost certainly go to jail.”
Tati was sentenced to 19-months’ probation with the first nine months on community service.