A MAN sentenced to 31/2 years in jail for possessing 105 forged banknotes was freed yesterday when the Court of Appeal cut his term to allow his immediate release. The court held that Mohammad Faisal was entitled to benefit from a new law and should be dealt with on the basis that the maximum penalty for his offence was three and not 14 years. The court noted that Faisal had been in custody since July 3, 1991. Delivering judgment for the court, Vice-President Mr Justice Power, sitting with Mr Justice Mortimer and Mr Justice Kaplan, said the court found it hard to understand why the prosecution was unaware of the change of law. They commented on the failure of both the prosecution and defence to appreciate the new maximum sentence. The changes in the legislature were prepared by the drafting division of the Attorney-General's chambers. It was surprising the important changes were not specifically drawn to the attention of prosecutors, said the judges. Better liaison was called for to prevent it happening again, said Mr Justice Power. There had been a spate of appeals brought in similar circumstances with the result that substantial public funds had been spent, he added. Faisal, 27, was arrested on July 3, 1991, in a Tsim Sha Tsui hotel after he handed over first five and later 100 counterfeit US$100 notes to an undercover agent posing as a buyer. He had pleaded guilty before Mr Justice Leonard in the High Court to two counts of possession of forged banknotes, an offence which then carried a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail. He was sentenced on November 30 last year. The court noted that the law under which Faisal was charged had been repealed on June 26 last year by a new provision. The new law split the offence into two - simple possession of counterfeit notes and possession with intent to pass them as genuine. The maximum sentences were three years and 14 years in jail, respectively. It was not in dispute that Faisal should be charged under the old law because the offence was committed before the amendment, the appeal court was told. In sentencing Faisal, Mr Justice Leonard took five years as a starting point and reduced the sentence to 31/2 years in view of the guilty plea and other mitigating factors. Faisal's counsel, Luke McGuinniety, cited an appeal case in which the Court of Appeal held that where the maximum sentence for an offence had been reduced during the period between the crime and sentencing, the offender was entitled to have the benefit of the amendment. Senior Crown Counsel Michael Holmes appeared for the Crown.