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"Exceptional" circumstances keep young mum out of prison

Thursday 12 December 2019

"Exceptional" circumstances keep young mum out of prison


A "naive" woman has been spared a prison sentence, after the Royal Court agreed she had only broken the law to help her then-boyfriend, who himself has been jailed for five years for a string of drug related offences.

Lisa Le Page (27) and Mark Bichard (31) faced 15 charges when they were sentenced by Guernsey's Royal Court yesterday, while Bichard also faced a further three charges after continuing to take and supply cannabis and cannabis resin despite already admitting his guilt for the previous offences.

Le Page was charged with supplying Bichard with cannabis between October 2017 and March 2018. He had also grown some cannabis plants around the same time, meaning he was charged with two counts of cultivating the drug while she had admitted 'aiding and abetting him' in alternate charges.

The pair were jointly charged with twelve counts of importing cannabis and/or cannabis resin between late 2017 and early 2019. 

Bichard then faced the three counts of supplying cannabis, supplying cannabis resin and possession cannabis by himself, having committed further offences after being charged alongside Le Page originally. 

cannabis

Pictured: Cannabis resin (file image).

The Royal Court heard how Bichard and Le Page were in a relationship at the time they committed their joint criminal offences, and that Bichard was a "habitual user" of cannabis.

In late 2017, Le Page began supplying Bichard with cannabis to feed his habit, with recovered text messages between the pair showing them discussing how she "can only get you one", that something was going to cost £30 and that something "smells really strong". The court accepted all of these messages referred to drugs. 

The pair also discussed buying "green" off a Mr P, who was frequently referenced in their text message conversations. 

By late 2018 the pair were involved with growing cannabis plants, again to feed Bichard's habit as the court accepted that Le Page did not take the drug herself, nor did she benefit financially at any point from her criminal activity. In fact, the court heard how Le Page was in a poor position financially and appeared to be struggling. 

During their relationship, Le Page took out a loan, with a third party acting as guarantor for her so she could borrow the money.

Further text messages between the former couple showed how she had ordered lamps and other growing equipment off the internet, getting them delivered to other addresses using other peoples' names, under Bichard's direction.

Out of the money she had borrowed, more than £4,000 was spent in 14 online transactions, buying cannabis or cannabis resin off a UK based dealer described in court as 'The Exporter'.

Other text messages between the former couple were read out to the court, which the prosecutor, Crown Advocate Rory Calderwood said proved Le Page's sole motivation was to keep her partner happy.

mobile phone text dark

Pictured: A lot of the evidence against Bichard and Le Page came from recovered text messages sent between the former couple. 

The Royal Court heard how no one will ever know how much cannabis and/or cannabis resin Le Page and Bichard had imported, because the one package which was intercepted by Guernsey Border Agency was found to contain 300g of the drug, and that was treated as a specimen charge.

Once the pair were charged, the court heard they both lied to Guernsey Police initially, before admitting their guilt.

They could have been sentenced earlier this year but Bichard was arrested just days after pleading guilty and being given a date to be sentenced for the original charges. Instead, the pair faced a series of delays while Bichard was again arrested by Guernsey Police and then charged with the three separate counts of possessing and supplying cannabis and cannabis resin.

He pleaded guilty to those charges, again acknowledging that his cannabis use was "problematic" before also taking full responsibility for Le Page's earlier criminal activity too.

Judge Russell Finch said the court accepted that the delay in sentencing was not Le Page's fault and that contributed to the lenient sentence she received. 

Mark-Bichard.jpg

Pictured: 31-year-old Mark Bichard was described in court as a "habitual user" of cannabis. He has received a five year prison term for his continued criminality including growing, importing and supplying the drug. 

In his defence, Bichard's lawyer said he came from a stable Guernsey family, and had always worked since he was 15, except for during times of ill health. He had moved to Australia in 2013 with his then partner, but he suffered a prolapsed disc in his spine while there which has affected his life and his ability to work ever since. 

He also saw someone shot and killed while living in Australia, which affected his own mental health, which had already been causing him problems since his teenage years. Since being remanded in custody in August, Bichard has been receiving treatment for post traumatic stress disorder.

His mental health, PTSD, pre-existing anxiety and back pain were all given as reasons for his heavy cannabis use. 

While admitting his own guilt, Bichard also took "full responsibility" for Le Page's criminal activity. 

His defence lawyer, David Thompson, said "he deeply regrets her being dragged into this" and that he regretted his earlier lying, which was to "protect her". Advocate Thompson also said neither Bichard nor Le Page realised the consequences of what they were getting involved with.

Le Page's defence lawyer had previously made submissions on her behalf, which Judge Russell Finch thanked her for, and said the documents provided to the Jurats, which gave details not revealed in open court, were sufficient for them to decide she would not receive a prison term, despite potentially facing a maximum of more than 21 years inside.

Defence Advocate Sara Mallet spoke briefly to the court before the Judge and Jurats retired to decide on sentences for the pair.

Court

Pictured: Lisa Le Page left court with a 240 hour community service order and two year's probation while Mark Bichard received a five year prison term. 

Judge Finch told the court this was a "more than ordinarily complex case".

He made clear that both Le Page and Bichard had faced a maximum of 21 years in prison for one of the charges they faced, but he also made it clear repeatedly that there were exceptional circumstances in this case.

Judge Finch said that Le Page, who has a young daughter, had provided Bichard with assistance on a number of charges, but that the drugs were not for her own use and there was no evidence of any financial gain. 

He told the court that this was "one of those rare and truly exceptional cases where we can show mercy to Le Page" but he also said that "pleas about children and family life are never a ticket to an easy life".

Judge Finch accepted that Le Page's good character had been reflected and said she had been treated on the facts presented to the court, and that her case is not to be used to set a precedent. 

"From time to time, exceptional cases do arise," said Judge Finch, as he sentenced Le Page to two year's probation and 240 hours community service, which is a direct alternative to 18-months in prison. He warned her if she stepped out of line she would be in prison, and said that he has a long memory and he doesn't want to see her in court again.

Bichard received a two-year prison sentence for the first set of charges he faced which related to the cultivation and importation of cannabis and cannabis resin, and he received a further three year sentence for the second set of charges, which included the possession and supply of cannabis and cannabis resin while on bail for the previous charges. The jail terms are to run consecutively meaning he has a total prison term of five years.

Pictured top: Mark Bichard. 

 

 

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Posted by Robert Williams on
Naive young woman! More like naive court.
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