The magistrate’s comments came as he considered sentences for Frankie Lovelace, who has a history of shoplifting. (iWN photo)

Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett said there are some members of the public who complain when the court punishes certain offenders, such as repeat shoplifters.

He made the point during the sentencing hearing, last Friday, of Paul’s Avenue resident Frankie Lovelace, who pleaded guilty to charge that he stole one brass hose nuzzle from Gibson Building Supplies at Bay Street, Kingstown, one day earlier.

Lovelace stole the item, value EC$30.65, at 8:11 a.m., or a mere 11 minutes after the store opened.

After presenting the fact at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court, the prosecution presented Lovelace’s criminal record to the magistrate.

Without looking at the multi-page document, Burnett told Lovelace that on his last appearance he had been charged for something similar.

“Is that so?”

“Yes,” Lovelace said.

“Was it at E.D. Layne?” Burnett asked.

Lovelace confirmed that this was the case.

“That’s how much I remember you — without even looking at your record,” said Burnett, who later realised that that conviction was yet to be entered on Lovelace record.

Lovelace told the court that he turn 54 on July 9, which he noted is Carnival Tuesday.

The magistrate, upon perusing the man’s record, noted that he has a history of shoplifting.

Lovelace told the court he is a carpenter.

“So every time you need something to do your work, you just walk into the store and walk out. That’s how you operate?” Burnett asked.

Lovelace said that is not the case but “nothing outside to do”, adding that said he intends to take stock and do better.

The magistrate, however, said he did not believe Lovelace.

“What do you do with a man like this?” Burnett reasoned, adding that that has been Lovelace’s modus operandi over time.

“And when you send them to prison, people feel that you should not even do it. A man that is  — I can call him a thief, because he has been convicted many times.”

Lovelace told the court “people could change”.

“But are you changing?” the magistrate retorted, and Lovelace said, “Yes. I will.”

“When these guys behave like this, there are persons in society who make excuses for them. All sorts of different reasons they are proffering for their behaviour and they want the magistrate to be everything: social worker, psychologist, they want me to get into their minds, get into their social circumstances, everything they want me to do when I set about to punish them.

“Sometimes, they don’t even want me to punish them for their crimes. But say what you want, I’m going to do my job…”

He asked prosecutor Corporal Shamrock Pierre to address him on sentencing.

The prosecutor noted that Lovelace had said he is a carpenter. “This is not a tool of his trade so I don’t know what he was going to do with this. And, as a carpenter, I believe that his skill will be well appreciated behind the walls.”

Pierre said imprisonment is a form of rehabilitation, adding that there is a carpentry programme in the prison.

“I am not sure that at his age we can rehabilitate him,” he said, adding that former Senior Magistrate Donald Browne used to use the term “SSS”.

“A sharp, short shock will do him well for this carnival and his birthday,” Pierre said.

“Then the persons in society who know more than us, what are they going to do and say? ‘The magistrate send a man to prison for an item, $30.65’,” Burnett said.  

He said the commentators would then start to count the number of persons in prison and the cost of feeding and clothing the prisoner.

“More than $30.65. Aahh,” the magistrate sighed.

“But seriously speaking, Mr. Connell, what do you do with these guys?’ he asked defence counsel Grant Connell, who happened to be sitting at the bar table.

The lawyer said that was “a good question”.

Senior Magistrate, Rickie Burnett. (iWN file photo)

The magistrate said that asking the man to compensate the hardware store is no punishment at all.

He said that if Lovelace had the money he would have paid for the item. “When persons are allowed to steal and they come to court and the court says, ‘Pay him back.’ What is that?”

Lovelace repeatedly begged the magistrate to give him “a chance”, saying that if that is done, he will never appear before him on a charge again. “Man, look, I don’t believe one word from you,” Burnett said, adding that Lovelace had appeared before him two months earlier and had said the same thing.

Based on the Lovelace’s record, the magistrate asked Lovelace if he was still on cocaine, and the man said no.

He then told the magistrate that there is “no work outside”.

“Well, if there is no work, you can’t steal,” the magistrate said.

“Then you could give me some work to do,” Lovelace said.

Burnett then returned to Connell, saying that the lawyer was ducking the question.

Connell said that jailing Lovelace would put “unnecessary strain on the already stretched finances of the economy”.

He asked about attachment to different institutions, saying that, as punishment, maybe Lovelace could be made to work for the Sanitation Department.

The lawyer suggested that Grantley “Ipa” Constance, a supervisor at the department and a Paul’s Avenue resident could be asked to come to court and give some insights into what persons like Lovelace could do for his department as punishment.

The lawyer further suggested that repeat shoplifters could be banned from places they have stolen from.

Burnett said that when presiding over a case his ideas “is not to quote-unquote full up the jail as someone suggested within the past 48 hours.

Connell said that Lovelace had a point about jobs.

Burnett said he might agree that there is a shortage of jobs in SVG, but asked if that is a licence to steal.

Connell said that while it is not a licence to steal, “the court can’t be burdened with people like this.

“You do get quite a name,” he said, adding that when he prosecuted a man for stealing oranges from his farm, he was told that he was wicked.

The lawyer suggested that a month of reporting at 5:30 a.m. to Constance at the Sanitation Department would help Lovelace to sort himself out.

He said that if Lovelace does not turn up for up a morning he can exercise his carpentry skills in prison.

The magistrate said he could do that and call it community service, but he has to get Constance in court.

Connell said that the community, the church and other persons have to help the court.

“I’ll bring Mr. Constance here but I am mindful that his main priority now is to make semi-finals,” the magistrate said, referring to the national calypso monarch competition.

He then adjourned the sentencing to Monday and granted Lovelace bail in his own recognisance.

Constance was among eight persons from his On Tour Calypso Tent to make it to the semi-finals, after preliminary judging last week.

11 replies on “Public complains when court punishes offenders — magistrate”

  1. I wish to commend both the magistrate and the counsel for engaging in discussions to find alternative sentence other than imprisoning the defendant, who indeed was deserving of a custodial sentence based on his criminal record before the court.

    This was a highly commendable act on the part of the lawmen and in particular so the magistrate who I think exercised grave patience in determining an appropriate sentence. The handling of this matter by the learned magistrate is nothing short of clear evidence that he takes in account important factors before passing sentence on a felon.

    Scarcely would you find in today’s court, an adjudicator soliciting recommendations from the bar table for an appropriate or reasonable sentence/alternative for convicts for offences of a particular nature before an initial sentence is determined.

  2. Joshua Richardson. says:

    Senior Magistrate can extend leniency in extenuating circumstances if he so chooses. However, in this case, it would be a miscarriage of justice if he does not imprison this man. He should also place him on a supervised work release program. The value of the item is of no consequence. It is the act. A very stern message must be sent to those who deprive others of their belongings.. Do we ever consider the VICTIM?
    If the Court allows this one to get away with a slap on the risk. How would the Court make a ruling on the next offender? My take on the whole matter is. Petty theft or grand larceny must be dealt with.
    If the man stole a food item out of need. The judge can say. “Go and steal no more least a worse thing befall you.”

  3. Theft is so out of control in SVG that it is a real problem that needs severe corrections. These people cost the country so much money, needing our tax dollars to not only pay for thier prison terms but the court costs as well. If such crimes are not addressed more severely the criminals feel emboldened to continue. In the USA they have prison labor. It has now become a big and productive industry in the USA. I am sure, as Mr. Burnett states, that this man’s skills can be utilized behind the walls. Maybe a major part of the problem is that we do not utilize our prison labor productively. Why don’t we have a “Prisons Industry” as they do all over the world. Saint Vincent produces practically nothing. Why don’t we use this as a way to change that?
    At one prison I worked at in the USA, the prisoners made office furniture. Many prisoners because highly skilled and upon release they had no reason to return to a life of crime.

  4. Rawlston Pompey says:

    PUNISHMENT AND RECIDIVISM

    The reporting here is rather interesting.

    The Senior Magistrate appeared to have been caught between a ‘…rock and a hard place.’

    Commendable interaction between the ‘…Magistrate; …defendant and ‘pro bono’ attorney Grant Connell.

    However, it shall be stated that ‘…an undefended defendant’ who pleaded guilty to his ‘…criminal sins,’ NO police prosecutor who merely presents the facts of the case to a Magistrate shall be called upon to ‘…address such Magistrate on sentencing.’

    The rationale;

    (i) …It is the police that arrested and initiated criminal proceedings; and

    (ii) …It is the police that prosecute the cases.’

    One shall not prosecute and mitigate. Bad for justice.

    Whether engaged or offering pro bono service, ‘…Pleas of Mitigation’ have always been the role of attorneys. Not a function of police prosecutors or the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

    What do you expect a prosecutor who is called upon by a Magistrate regarding appropriate sentence of a defendant not legally represented to be imposed? The simple answer is ‘…Send him to jail.’

    Sentencing is the sole function of Magistrates and Judges, who have a prerogative to exercise their discretion. The ‘…focus, however is always on justice’ [Senior Magistrate Ricky Burnett].

    While there is a virtual complainant who wishes to see justice is served, calling upon a police prosecutor does not help in determining sentence.

    Incidentally, there was a timely intervention by attorney Grant Connell at the invitation of the Senior Magistrate.

    In good spirit, the adjudicator clearly appreciated what he has said, to the extent of adjourning that aspect of the proceedings, ‘…Sentencing.’

    Even so, the Senior Magistrate having perused the ‘…Defendant’s Rap-Sheet,’ that revealed repetitive criminal behavior, had forced him to look at;

    (i) …An appropriate punishment; and

    (ii) …Recidivism.

    It is clear that if a ‘…custodial sentence,’ is imposed, this defendant is likely to relapse on release.

    More likely, than not, he may also ‘…lift a piece of tool to sell to make money.’

    Really cannot stop ‘…an egg-sucking dog from sucking eggs.’

    Good reporting Editor, and commendations to the adjudicator and attorney.

  5. This is one of the perfect case why SVG is is such mess it is in today.
    This man is a serial thief, and reporting to a police station for a month will not help him.
    what are going to do the next time, have him report for two months, three months or four months.
    lock his ass up and send the right message.

  6. Duke I agree with you, we definitely need a prison industry, probably putting their skills to work and realizing how rewarding it is to, could be some rehabilitation for these repeat offenders. Very good interaction.

  7. The problem stems from the fact that that jail is seen as a revolving door. Hard labour is not enforced. One guy said told the magistrate that he must hurry up and send him to Belle lisle. He doesn’t want to miss dinner. It’s a boarding school or Club Salvation Are my a hostel. Let them work for their boarding.

  8. I agree with Duke. Maybe these guys can be used to improve the agricultural sector. Let them work for farmers where the government will ask for a reasonable pay rate, so that some funds can be given to them when they leave prison. This way the cost of imprisonment will not be a big burden on the government.
    I also believe part of the money should be given to the person whose article was stolen.
    Something just crossed my mind: The agriculture department has a business deal with farmers, from whom it purchases products. This can be a simple and easy practice to implement.

    1. Yes, they can be used to assist in agriculture. There is a Minimum-Security prison on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State where the prisoners work in teams cleaning the forests in areas with a potential of forest fires as well as areas with trails for tourism. It is hard work and the prisoners are well-fed and believe it or not…the prisoners love the work! Part of the reason for sending individuals to prison is to protect society from thier behavior. Being sent to prison is the punishment for thier deeds while in society but they are usually not sent to prison to be punished. It used to be that way but thesedays they would call it cruel punishment. Prison life in most places is like being in the Holiday Inn, not what you see in Hollywood movies.

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