Senior judges have released a young mum jailed for drug dealing from prison.
Mr Justice Goose agreed with Fiona Akello-Joseph’s lawyers that the decision by a judge at Oxford Crown Court to send the pregnant mum-of-two inside in February was ‘manifestly excessive’.
The 27-year-old had been arrested for drug dealing twice in three weeks in the summer of 2018.
On the first occasion, she had left her two children – then aged two and five – home alone while she went out in a car with a co-defendant.
When police got into the Greater Leys property several hours after Akello-Joseph had been taken into custody, they found the younger child with a full nappy and soiled clothing while ants were marching across the bed where the older child had been asleep. The house was searched and drugs found in a shoebox.
Akello-Joseph was found exactly three weeks later this time in a car with two men. Again, she was involved in dealing hard drugs.
In a basis of plea not challenged by the Crown Prosecution Service said her house was being used to warehouse the drugs and she was acting on behalf of another.
Lawyers for the woman told the Court of Appeal that the judge dealing with the case in February had given insufficient weight to concerns raised in the pre-sentence report about her mental health, to the basis of plea and to the substantial delay in the case reaching court – with the trial twice adjourned as a result of the covid pandemic then the barristers’ strike.
Delivering judgment for the three-strong Court of Appeal panel, Mr Justice Goose said, in their view, the appropriate sentence for the most serious count of drug dealing was two years.
With ‘respect’ to the ‘very experienced’ judge, he said, the sentence of more than two-and-a-half years imposed last month was ‘excessive’.
The two year term was suspended, with Mr Justice Goose saying they could factor in Akello-Joseph’s ‘strong personal mitigation’ – including the fact she had two children and a third on the way. The probation service felt there was a realistic likelihood of rehabilitation in her case, he added.
The Court of Appeal suspended the two year prison term for two years and ordered that she do up to 25 rehabilitation activity requirement days and a nine month mental health treatment requirement.
Akello-Joseph, who appeared at the Royal Courts of Justice via video link from HMP Eastwood Park, could be seen dabbing her eyes as she was told that her prison sentence was replaced with a suspended sentence.