Kevin Stapleton, a 16-year-old student of Bishop’s College Kingstown who burglarised a police station in St. Vincent, has been ordered to undergo counselling for one year.
However, his co-accused, 17-year-old Shemar James, also of Georgetown, who committed the crime for a second time this year and was already in jail, received a one-year prison sentence.
Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett handed down the sentences on Monday at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court, during a hearing in which Stapleton’s principal, social workers, a defence lawyer and the prosecutor all said he was a good candidate for rehabilitation.
Stapleton and James had pleaded guilty one week earlier to a charge that between 2 a.m. and 5:25 a.m. on Oct. 22, they broke into the Georgetown Police Station and stole two motorcycles and a bicycle.
After gaining entry to the building, the youths broke the lock to the evidence room, the court heard.
The magistrate had adjourned the sentencing for one week and has requested that BCK principal Cecelia Akers-King attend the hearing.
Akers-King told the court that Stapleton is a good student and her main complaint is the number of times he is absent or late.
He transferred to BCK from Georgetown Secondary School in 2016 after repeating Form 3.
The principal said: “We do not have a problem with Kevin at school. His respect for authority, his conduct, his decorum, all of these things are good at school.”
Also testifying on the student’s behalf was Rhonda Charles, a social worker at Liberty Lodge Boys Training Centre, who had worked with Stapleton for nine months.
She told the court that while Stapleton was not a rude person, he lacked parental guidance.
The court heard that Stapleton had lived at a Catholic-run home in Georgetown, but because of some issues, the staff there took him to the Liberty Lodge, a state-run facility for at-risk boys.
Lawyer Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, who was in court at the time but was not involved in the case, spoke on the youths’ behalf.
She said that after speaking with the youths she was satisfied that they believed that the motorcycle that they stole from the police station belonged to them and that they did not break into the police station for the sake of doing so.
The magistrate, however, noted that James has a conviction for a similar act, adding that the youths should have taken the right course of action.
The lawyer expressed concern about the future of the nation’s youth and said that sending Stapleton to jail would be a “death knell”.
Senior Prosecutor Adolphus Delplesche expressed similar sentiments, saying that Stapleton did not seem to be a hardened criminal and that the judicial system should not be “manufacturing criminals” — an apparent reference to the likely outcome if Stapleton were to be jailed.
The magistrate ordered the counsellor at BCK, who was in court for the proceedings, to report to the court on Stapleton’s progress on April 30 and Oct. 31, 2019.
For his part, James was already serving a one-year prison sentence imposed the previous week for theft of an air rifle.
The one-year sentence came into automatic effect as he was convicted of the theft for which he was charged while a one-year prison sentence imposed in April but suspended for a year, was still enforceable.
For the theft of the gun, the magistrate had sentenced James to prison for one year, to run concurrently with the one-year sentence for burglarising the police station.
For last month’s burglary of the police station, the magistrate imposed a one-year prison sentence to run concurrently with the two others that James is already serving.