Pot-smoking detective's sentence cut

TROPICAL BARS: Former detective inspector Mark Franklin is serving a jail term in the Cook Islands for cannabis dealing.
TROPICAL BARS: Former detective inspector Mark Franklin is serving a jail term in the Cook Islands for cannabis dealing.

A former leading detective who confessed to using dope to deal with the stress of some of the country's grisliest murders has had his jail sentence for cannabis offences in the Cook Islands reduced.

Former Detective Inspector Mark Franklin was jailed for 12 months in Rarotonga in August after pleading guilty to selling cannabis to an undercover officer in 2010.

The charges arose out of Operation Eagle, a joint investigation between New Zealand and Cook Islands police, which resulted in 13 people facing charges. Sentences handed down by New Zealand judge Colin Doherty under the Cook Islands' draconian drug laws - Franklin faced up to 10 years in prison - were derided in Rarotonga as excessive.

Franklin appealed his sentence on the grounds that the amounts involved were small and did not amount to a commercial transaction. The appeal was heard last week.

An Appeal Court panel made up of New Zealand QCs Barry Paterson, David Williams and Sir Ian Barker released their decision yesterday.

Franklin's sentence was reduced from 12 to nine months. The court said taking into account all factors, including that Franklin had been diagnosed with terminal cancer around the time of the offending and there was no evidence he had made a profit from the sale of the cannabis, the original sentence was excessive.

Butit rejected Franklin's claim that he had been entrapped by the undercover officer, noting he had told the previous judge he had recognised the officer for what he was but went ahead with the transaction anyway since he was "not going to be around much longer".

Taking into consideration time already served, Franklin could be released on parole in January.

One of Franklin's lawyers, Tony Manarangi, said the defence team hoped he would be freed yesterday.

He said Franklin was doing well, if a little disappointed.

Mere King, who supplied a "tinnie" of cannabis that Franklin passed to an undercover officer at Trader Jack's bar, also had her sentenced reduced from seven months to five. The court said her original sentence was excessive for a woman in her 50s with no previous convictions.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Star-Times at Arorangi Prison in September, Franklin described how he had been a casual user of cannabis for many years, using it to relieve stress over inquiries such as the murders of Dean Fuller-Sandys and Leah Stephens, and the abduction-murder of hairdresser Marie Jamieson.

The Star-Times revealed how Franklin had been caught in an undercover sting involving a New Zealand police officer of Cook Islands descent who claimed to have been sacked from the police for cannabis offences and, says Franklin, "pestered" him for cannabis until he finally relented.

Franklin had moved to Rarotonga to work as a musician.

Sunday Star Times