written by retired Superintendent
George F. Rose CPM
George Rose


There’s an old but little-known ‘idiom’ used in law enforcement which I believe illustrates a cornerstone reason to never go undermanned into difficult situations.  It went something like this: 

“Strike not lightly a nest of hornets, but if you strike, strike hard.”

This is the story about a drug raid the details of which are best laid out in the facts presented at the ensuing day-long trial which led to the conviction of 33-year-old  James Sinclair Smith of St. Davids. Smith had denied possession of 80 pay-type envelopes containing a total of 84 grammes of cannabis. He was represented by Ms. Shirley Simmons.


Shortly after my transfer on May 1,1978 as O.I.C. Eastern C.I.D to the position of Officer-in-Charge of Narcotics, I was keen to follow-up on intelligence reports substantiating heavy drug sale activities on overgrown land at the entrance to Coney Island and mostly frequented by military personnel off the nearby United States military base. The large number of mainly white American males who were visiting the area was self-evident and now, having the manpower available, I developed a plan to deal with the issue which included the likely busiest time of day to strike.  

During the trial I told the court I had held a personnel briefing at the Narcotics office, Prospect followed by an additional briefing with uniform officers at St. George’s station. I then led teams comprising of twelve police officers in conducting an exercise at about 2.45 p.m. on Tuesday, May 30, 1978 on triangular-shaped waste ground located adjacent to Coney Island Road East, off the North Shore Road in Hamilton Parish directly opposite the business [then] known as the Enterprise Grocery. It commenced raining at our time of arrival. 

Map of the drug raid area marked in red
(Map courtesy of Bermuda Islands Guide)

"Approaching from the east towards a large open-fronted shed, I left the rear passenger seat of the unmarked police vehicle [Golf 7 driven by Dc Terry Hodgson] and hastily walked towards the open front of the makeshift shed structure set among trees. I knew that other officers were simultaneously approaching the same shed from other directions. I saw between nine and twelve men huddled around a table playing cards. Cards were being dealt as I approached and the men did not immediately see me.


“I was aware of three other men standing outside the shed; two of them I knew by sight were in trees nearby and the third was leaning against the shed on my left side looking in. When I was about four yards from the front of the shed everyone at the table suddenly looked up in my direction as if they’d been alerted. My attention was drawn to the defendant, to my forward right, who was sitting alone and apart from the card playing men on a low wall near the left-rear corner of the shed. He appeared to have been alerted to me at the same time as everyone else. He was a black male dressed in a grey denim outfit and a grey peaked cap. He wore a full-faced beard. I later identified this man as the defendant James Sinclair Smith.

“Smith was the only person who made any additional movement at that time and I saw him lift a brown paper bag out of his lap and twist his head and upper body and shoulders to his right and place the bag behind him. He then looked directly back at me. 

“At this point I had reached the mouth of the shed and Dc Vaughan Stovell was to my right as he entered the shed on its left northern side. As he entered the shed and proceeded to the rear, Smith stood up, and he moved to come out of the shed.

P.C. Vaughan Stovell

“I saw Smith push past Dc Stovell before he walked past me to the front of the shed. I alerted Dc Stovell to defendant’s actions and pointed him to the spot where Smith had been seated. No other persons inside the shed had yet stood up.

“I then saw Smith had been intercepted by other officers who were speaking with him just outside the shed. I directed Dc McLean to detain and search Smith as I glanced at the group of men still seated at the card table and noticed they were elderly adults who still appeared somewhat confused as to what was going on. They were all still seated and I was satisfied they were not a threat to us at that time. 

“I saw Dc Stovell retrieve the brown paper bag previously held by Smith from between the shed wall and a low bench seat. It was the only brown paper bag at that location. I saw that it was bulky. Dc Stovell looked inside the bag and nodded to me. He joined me at the shed entrance and showed me the contents of the paper bag in which I saw a quantity of brown pay-type envelopes.

“I went with Dc Stovell to the defendant who was standing nearby with Dc McLean. I identified myself to Smith and said, “I saw you a few moments ago in possession of this brown paper bag when you transferred it from your lap to put it behind you in the shed.”


“Without saying anything, Smith turned and walked away from me. I followed after him and was then briefly assaulted by Alfred “Bull Rat” Smith who jumped on my back from behind. Other officers pulled him off me and I continued after the defendant and said to him, “I have reason to believe the envelopes in that bag contain a controlled drug and I’m arresting you on suspicion of possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply.” Midway through the cautioning Smith shouted, “Fucking cops there’s nothing wrong with weed, leave me alone.”  He shook my hand off his upper arm and after a minor struggle I handcuffed him and placed him, still struggling, in a police vehicle when he was taken to St. George’s Police station in company with Dc Stovell. 

I remained at the scene waiting for calm to return during which time two additional arrests were made by Sergeant Brian Flook of males wanted by police on outstanding matters. 

At about 3.30 p.m. I joined Smith and Dc Stovell at the station where I took a pay-type envelope out of the brown paper bag and said to Smith, “Do you want to tell me what’s in here – you don’t have to say anything but whatever you say may be given in evidence.” 

He replied, “That’s obvious.”

In his presence I slit opened the envelope and saw a plant material resembling marijuana. I again cautioned Smith who replied, “You guys make me laugh.”

I signed and dated the envelope after which Smith was further detained and transferred to the Hamilton police station. During the remainder of the afternoon and with assistance from Late Turn officers I continued enquiries without gain in an attempt to discover the ownership of the seized drug. Smith refused any information saying he ‘had gotten a message to his ace boy about what to do’.   


At 10.15 a.m. the following morning Wednesday, January 31, 1978 I contemporaneously recorded a Q/A interview under caution with Smith in the presence of Dc Stovell at the Narcotics office, Prospect. He refused to sign the document or to answer questions after initially doing so. 

“James Sinclair Smith, I intend to put questions to you about the offence of possessing marijuana with intent to supply for which you were arrested yesterday afternoon at Coney Island. You are not obliged to say anything to me in answer to these questions unless you wish to do so but I shall record my questions and any answers you may give and they may be given in evidence. Do you understand?”

A. Yes.
Q. You recall the events of yesterday afternoon at Coney Island?
A. No, I don’t remember anything.
Q. Do you recall why you were arrested and why you are here now?
A. You’re not listening. I have nothing to say.
Q. Do you recall the Police coming to Coney Island yesterday afternoon and finding you in the shed?
A. I have nothing to say and I’d appreciate it very much if you wouldn’t ask me anything else.

Q. For your benefit I shall recall the events of yesterday afternoon at about 2.45 p.m. in the shed at Coney Island. At this time, myself and a number of other Police officers, in answer to complaints from members of the public, went to a shed near the entrance to Coney Island. As I approached the front of the shed, which is wide open, I saw you sitting close to about twelve other men. You were dressed 

as you are now in a grey jeans outfit and a grey peaked cap. You sport a full beard. You were sitting at the back inside of the shed on my right as I approached you. You were facing me directly. I saw you lift this brown bag out of your lap and place it beside you on your right. You turned your body sideways to do so and then looked back at me. I saw Detective Stovell, this officer here, approach you directly and reach for the bag. You stood up and walked past him out of the shed. I instructed another officer, detective McLean, to search you. I arrested you for possession of a plant material I suspected to be marijuana, after having been shown the contents of the brown bag by detective Stovell. Inside the bag I saw a large quantity of pay-type envelopes. Do you have anything to say about what I’ve said?

Q. I now show you the emptied contents of the pay-type envelopes. It is a plant material resembling marijuana. Any comment?
A. No comment.
Q. The contents of this brown paper bag have been counted and found to number 80 pay-type envelopes each containing plant material. Any comment?
A. I don’ t want to say anything about this whole thing.
Q. Do you wish to count the bags?
A. No
Q. On your body search just outside the shed yesterday afternoon, Dc McLean found this packet of Rizla papers in your pocket. For what purpose do you use these papers?
Q. Also found on your person were the following currency amounts: – US$ 1 x $20, 2 x $10, 1 x $5 ---  BDA$ 2 x $20, 2 x $10, 4 x $5, 6 x $1 – together with assorted loose change amounting to a total of $131.75. Does this money belong to you alone?
Q. It is my information that you frequent the shed at Coney Island on a daily basis. Is this correct?
Q. It is to my knowledge that drugs are openly sold from the shed and surrounding trees at the area approached by Police at Coney Island yesterday. Is this correct?
Q. It is to my knowledge that this area is frequented by U.S. Navy personnel for the purpose of buying drugs. Is this correct?
Q. Mr. Smith I believe that you were at the shed on Coney Island yesterday afternoon in possession of this bag containing 80 pay-type envelopes containing plant material I believe to be marijuana, and that  you were there for the sole purpose of making drug sales. You intended to supply these envelopes on demand, and for payment to anyone approaching you as a customer. Is this correct?
Q. Would you care to deny what I’ve just said?
Q. Is it true? Did you intend to supply?
Q. Who owns these drugs Mr. Smith?
Q. Is there anything you would like to say about this incident yesterday?
Q. Would you like to read over this record making any alterations, corrections or additions you wish?
     11.01 a.m. For your benefit I shall read the record over to you.
Q. Is there anything you would like to say. You realize this is your opportunity to make any comment you wish?
Q. Would you like to sign this record as a true reflection of the interview?
END 11.08 a.m.

Recorded by me at the Narcotics Office, Prospect between the marginal times on Wednesday, May 31, 1978 in the presence of Dc Stovell. 

Signed: George F. Rose A/D.I. Witness Dc 469 Vaughan Stovell.”


The second prosecution witness, Dc Vaughan Stovell told the court he entered into Coney Island from the west in an unmarked Police vehicle.

“As I got within three feet of the shed the men near the shed on the outside looked up and saw me coming. I could not see who was inside. A heard a male voice shout, ‘The Man’.

“As I got to the front of the shed which was wide open, I could see several men inside around a table playing cards. I recognized a man I knew to be James Sinclair Smith who was sitting on the rear wall on the left side [of the shed.

“I entered the shed, Smith got up, pushed by me and started to go out. During a search of the rear of the shed I found a bulky brown paper bag between the wall and the rear bench, right behind where I had seen Smith sitting. I picked up the bag, looked inside and it contained a quantity of bulky pay-type envelopes and I carried the bag outside. I met Inspector Rose and together we went to Smith who was standing nearby.

“Inspector Rose identified himself and told him he had seen him with the brown paper bag which I was holding.”

“After Smith’s arrest the officer told the court he next saw the defendant in the rear of the Police car and Smith questioned him as to why they were holding him.

Dc Stovell’s evidence was supported by Dc Wilber McLean the next witness to give evidence.”

D.C. Wilbur McLean


The accused, in the witness box, told the court he was on his way to Hamilton but stopped at Coney Island around noon as it was raining. “I was on my way to Hamilton to the Electric Light Company to pay a bill. The bill got paid a week later and the electricity was turned off on the Friday.”

Smith told the court part of the money found in his possession was for the electric light bill. “There were quite a few people at the shed, about 20. It was crowded. People gathered there to socialize, some were drinking, some playing cards and others just waiting for the rain to stop. I was playing cards and waiting for the rain to stop.

“Someone shouted, ‘Man’ and everyone scattered, some ran, some stayed but everyone could not get out. I was able to get out and walked about ten yards from the shed and was stopped by Dc Mclean. Police officers were coming from all over the place. The officer searched me and I looked around and everyone else was being searched by the officers.

“The officer finished with me, everyone else was finished and I walked in the shed and a few of us began to play cards again. The officers stood on the outside, right side, of the shed, they formed a semi-circle and a few minutes after an officer walked in and told me I was under arrest. 

“I didn’t have the brown paper bag between my legs. I had card money between my legs because we were gambling and I put it in my pockets.”


At the conclusion of the trial the magistrate gave his decision the same day and convicted 33-year-old James Sinclair Smith of the charge and sent him to prison for 15 months for possession of cannabis with intent to supply. He told Smith, “Where a person is found guilty of possession with intent to supply, then the only possible sentence is one of imprisonment.”


Published February 2024