Guilty or Not Guilty? What would Cassandra Sainsbury expect if she had got caught in Australia?
Adelaide’s Cassandra Sainsbury was arrested for possessing about 6 kg of cocaine at a Columbian airport. While there are people who believe that the young tourist could perhaps have been used as a decoy by drug dealers, the quantity with which she has been caught makes it seem unlikely. Consequently, scepticism about her innocence is rising. Drug traffickers often have several mules going on various flights. They may give over one to the cops so that the others can go past. Even so, lawyers believe that they are unlikely to give 6 kg to a mule. Drug mules are ready to sign up and this is why now traffickers have lost the incentive to slip packets of drugs into other people’s bags.
Cassandra’s family insists that somebody had tricked her into accepting the boxes of headphones that had 5.8 kg of cocaine hidden in them. She was arrested on April 11 at El Dorado International Airport for drug trafficking only a couple of minutes before she was about to board a plane to Australia. When the airport officials X-rayed her luggage, they found cocaine concealed in packaging.
Since her family cannot afford the soaring legal costs, they have turned to the fundraising website, FundRazr. They hope to raise at least $15,000; however, that seems impossible now. While they have been able to raise over $2000, they are rapidly losing their case with online users commenting that Cassandra’s story doesn’t make sense. Also, her family members have been giving contradictory statements. Her boyfriend feels that tourists can easily get targeted in Colombia. Meanwhile, a representative of Colombia’s Fire Service has also asked the page to remove references to her volunteering for them. SA Country Fire Service stated that Cassandra had not volunteered for them in the last 3 years. She had volunteered for them for 3 years but stopped in 2014.
Cassandra reportedly told her mother that she got the drugs from a man who agreed to be her translator while she was on a short holiday in Colombo. He took her around and showed her places and according to her mother, there was nothing suspicious about the man or his conduct. Cassandra is now in the largest women’s prison in Colombia. According to her mother, Cassandra was hoping to get married in February 2018 and had gone to Columbia to purchase some gifts for her wedding. When she told her ‘translator’ that she wanted some headphones, he reportedly told her about a man who would give her a good price if she bought 16 or 18 of them. She agreed and the man visited her on the day of her departure and gave her the headphones. They were all individually wrapped. Apparently, Cassie didn’t even rip the packets open to see if they really had headphones in them.
Her family said that they have hired a good lawyer to defend her case. She is likely to plead guilty to avoid a prison term of 18 to 25 years. The minimum punishment is 6 years but her family believes that they would be able to get it reduced to 4 if she gives information about the person who gave her cocaine. In any case, it would be difficult for her to plead not guilty because the product had been seized from her. Cassandra is now waiting for trial which could take up to 2 months.
What would Cassandra expect if she was caught with the drugs once in Australia?
Cassandra would likely be charged under s.307.1 (1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).
The maximum penalty for importing a “commercial quantity” of drugs under this section is life imprisonment. Whilst sentences of life imprisonment are rarely imposed for drug importation offences, it is a reflection of how serious offences of this nature are considered by our courts.
Could she get bail in Australia?
Cassandra would expect, if caught with the drugs in her suitcase here in Australia, to be immediately detained and charged. It is highly unlikely that she would be released “on bail” given the circumstances of how she was caught.
What sort of sentence would she expect if she pleaded guilty?
Despite the offence carrying a possible sentence of life imprisonment, having regard to her lack of criminal history, her age, her role in the offence (likely to be found to be a courier of the drugs or a “mule”), it could be expected that Cassandra could spend at least the next 4-7 years in prison.