The accused man has maintained that he found the phone at Heritage Square. (Internet photo)

A man who spent two days in jail after the owner of a phone he found failed to collect it as they had arranged, saw the theft charge against him withdrawn on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018.

Lennox Tommy of Edinboro, originally of Georgetown, is now wondering who is going to give him back the EC$800 he spent in legal fees to clear his name.

The theft charge was brought against the man although he told the owner of the phone — a Canadian — his name and address, and arranged for the phone to be handed over in Kingstown.

And, Tommy’s lawyer, Michael Wyllie, believes that only a few lawsuits for false imprisonment would deter police in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) from making these types of arrests and bring charges in those circumstances.

Tommy was charged in late December with theft of the phone — an iPhone.

When he was arraigned before Bertie Pompey at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court, Tommy pleaded not guilty and immediately told the court, “I did not steal the phone. I found the phone.”

He was granted bail and the matter was adjourned to January.

However, when the case came up for hearing last Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, prosecutor Corlene Samuel told the court that the Crown was withdrawing the charge.

The magistrate then told the accused man that he was free to go.

Tommy’s lawyer, Wyllie, rose and asked the court why the charged had been withdrawn.

The prosecutor said that the Crown did not have enough evidence to substantiate the charge.

Wyllie told the court that this is an issue that he has with police in SVG.

“He is a Good Samaritan that found a phone, got in touch with the person to collect the phone. I have had this situation over and over where the police don’t know the basic elements of theft. They can’t even get past appropriation.

“Over and over again, locking up a man, putting him in jail for two days. This has to stop. You are taking way people’s human rights. That happens to be my background, so when I hear about these things, I get really passionate about this. If this was in the United States, this man would have been rich suing the police for false imprisonment,” said Wyllie, who has practiced in the United Sates.

“You would have had a lot of rich persons in St. Vincent,” said lawyer Grant Connell, who was sitting at the bar table.

“This is outrageous,” Wyllie told the court.

Defence cousel Michael Wyllie said a few lawsuits would help the police to get things right before charging people. (iWN photo)

After the proceedings, Tommy told iWitness News that he found the phone at Heritage Square sometime after midnight on Dec. 17 and took it home, keeping it in anticipation that the owner would call.

He said that the owner never called until sometime between 5 and 6 p.m. that day.

Tommy told iWitness News that he answered the phone and spoke to the people about how they would get the phone.

He said he had gone to Georgetown to work and gave the owner of the phone his name and they arranged to hand over the phone in Kingstown the following Monday.

He said that on the Monday, the owner of the phone did not call, but went to the police, leading to his being arrested.

“I did not steal anybody phone,” Tommy told iWitness News.

“So, mostly likely, when you find people’s phone now, it either you throw it away or do something or dismantle it. Because if you find a phone and are being honest to give back the person, and tell them your name and everything, they are not supposed to go the station and say somebody stole their phone. It’s really ridiculous,” Tommy said.

He told iWitness News that he paid EC$800 in legal fees to clear his name.

“Who is going to give me it back?” he said.

Meanwhile, Wyllie told iWitness News that his client should never have been charged.

The lawyer said he returned to SVG about two years ago after studied, living and practicing law in 11 jurisdictions for 37 years.

“And since I have been here, I have had several cases where the police do not know the basic elements of a crime and what evidence they need to put forward to prove a charge,” Wyllie told iWitness News.

“If someone steals a phone, would they answer it and give the person their name? He ended up two nights in jail. Like I said [to the court], if this were in the United States or other jurisdictions I’ve been to, a lot of Vincentians would be rich.”

He said the thing that the police were probably going on was the fact that two days had passed after Tommy found the phone.

“There is no law that says you must hand it in to the police. You must make an effort to find the owner. That is what he did. And the owner found him. So there is no need to hand it in to the police.”

Wyllie said that while many people in other jurisdictions would sue for such matters, in SVG, “I am sure you have been around the court long enough to know that is not done, but I intend to do some more of that here … because somebody needs to set an example to the police that you cannot be going around arresting people on not even tenuous evidence, no evidence at all. This is outrageous.”

He noted that the man had to pay legal fees and said it is about time that, on matters of these kinds, the prosecution be made to pay for the defendant’s costs.

11 replies on “Charge against man who found phone raises human rights concern”

  1. Yes, The police of Saint Vincent have the competence of the Keystone Cops only when such stupidity happens in real life it is not very funny. I wonder when of even “if” we will ever be able to have those in the police that are more corrupt than the criminals, exposed and put in jail; and I am not talking about just stealing cocaine. The very bad police make the good ones look bad and then it reflects on the entire police force.

  2. So why was the Canadian not charge for making a false statement to the police
    After making arrangement to collect the phone from Mr. Tommy?
    SVG is totally heading backwards.

  3. when u find something of value that belongs to some one els to avoid the hassle with law enforcement officials just take it to the police station that’s my view

  4. While the Police have to take responsibility for their decisions and actions the DPP Office has a responsibility to ensure that the ingredients to prove the offense are satisfied. Additionally, the DPP have to also establish that there are sufficient evidence to substantiate the charge.

    Criminals are very clever. Most persons who steal would always tell the Police they were on their way to return the item if it is found in their possession. This is the reality of criminality. We must not be deceived by criminals and crooked lawyers who know their clients are guilty and advise them against making a guilty plea or advise them to lie to get away from the charges. While many celebrate the legal profession there are lots of ethical issues that are very concerning.

    Case files must go through a proper vetting process before the complaint or information is lodge. The person accepting the charge must ensure the matter satisfy the minimum threshold for a prosecution. An attorney from the DPP Office should be attached to process in an effort to avoid these kinds of gaffs. This seems to be a case of improper supervision and procedural error.

  5. Most police in SVG are qualified to march at the independence parade. March and salute for the queen’s representative. Hence the Royal SVG police force. It’s time for the to stop using force and use intelligence.

  6. If the information given is accurate, then it leaves a sad state of affairs for showing kindness in seeking to return items which have been found, be it a phone or other valuables, tablet, computers, jewelry etc. In order not to end up on the suffering and losing side, which option do you think is best when you find a lost valuable item?
    1. Leave the item right where you see it. end of story
    2. Spend a small fee to make a phone call to the police informing them where you notice a valuable item but leave it. Well what if the police check and it not there ? Best use a pay phone.
    3. Pick up the item and carry it to the nearest police station? Any risk!
    4. Try to contact the owner and tell them where you notice the item but leave it there? Big risk
    5. IGNORE IT COMPLETELY
    6. Discard it in the sea to protect all fellow citizen who may wish to be good Samaritans from ending up on the losing side and incurring cost
    7. Contact the owner if any means of identification exist and arrange to meet them in a public area. (Well sounds like this is what happen in this case causing financial lost)
    8. Contact the owner if any means of identification exist and arrange to meet them at the nearest or most convenient police station.
    9. Keep your freedom, see it and look the other side, walk away as fast as possible.
    WELL IF YOU WERE IN THE POSITION OF THE FINDER, WHICH WILL YOU CHOOSE?

  7. The 37 years experienced lawyer did not do his client justice. He should have asked the court for cost so that Tommy could get his money back.

    If he cared so much about his client the recourse is to file a case for malicious prosecution and false imprisonment against the police.

    Further the Canadian can be sued for for making a false claim against his client. So Mr 37 years experience, seems like you take people money then talk about what happen in other places the law is the law. Get some balls and do your job

  8. It seems a simple matter of the dynasty elected DPP not doing his job properly, its a shame that he is beyond the law in such matters and cannot be sued.

    He is very quick at squashing dynasty cases but when it comes to the simple citizen he fails in his duty of care.

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