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Youth jailed for refusing to provide police with passcode

Youth jailed for refusing to provide police with passcode

Monday 18 February 2019

Youth jailed for refusing to provide police with passcode

A 20-year-old caught driving while high on cannabis has been given 10 weeks youth detention, as punishment from the courts for refusing to hand over his mobile phone code to the police.

At 04:25 on 15 September last year, Matthew Arnold was arrested when Guernsey Police pulled him over and the officers were suspicious he had been smoking cannabis. His driving was erratic and he was seen swerving before they approached his vehicle. There were also two passengers in the car with Arnold.

When those officers asked Arnold if he had any drugs in the car, he pointed them toward a phone box with 12.15g of cannabis inside. 

While Arnold cooperated at the scene, when he was interviewed at the police station after being allowed to sober up, he started to give no comment answers. Because of the amount of cannabis found in his possession, police also needed to look at his phone so they could conduct an investigation into any other potential illegal activity. But Arnold failed to provide his passcode within the required time - which is a separate criminal offence. He never actually gave the police access to it. 

His excuse was that there was confidential material on the phone, but Judge Graeme McKerrell told Arnold he should trust the police to deal with any unrelated information they find on the phone sensitively. In light of not having access to the device, they are entitled to presume he was hiding evidence of further illegal actions and charge him.

mobile phone dark

Arnold wouldn't give Guernsey Police his phone passcode - a criminal offence. 

In total, Arnold faced three charges: driving while unfit to do so, possession of cannabis, and knowingly failing to disclose information required by the police.

Arnold was also criticised for comments he made to the probation service about how he believes cannabis should be legalised in Guernsey. His defence advocate, Liam Roffey, said the defendant had stopped using the drug following the trauma of this incident, but Arnold had still told the service what he thought - Judge McKerrell said: "You clearly have views about cannabis that do not align with the law of the island.

"Driving under the influence of drugs is no different from driving under the influence of drink, the affect is the same, you pose a risk to yourself or to others. [Additionally] those who deliberately thwart enquires by the police will be treated very seriously."  

As with alcohol, a legal drug on Guernsey, if cannabis was legal, you would still not be able to drive while under the influence of it, he added.

In total, Arnold was given a £500 fine on top of his youth detention and disqualified from driving for 18 months. He was given two weeks youth detention for the cannabis, but that is to be served concurrently to the 10 week sentence he received for failing to provide the passcode.

Judge McKerrell said he had chosen to sentence with youth detention because he was satisfied the offences were serious enough that a non custodial sentence could not be justified. 


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