Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne has expressed concern that persons accused of theft of agricultural produce are not being charged under the Praedial Larceny Act.
Most persons continue to be charged with theft although the Praedial Larceny Act, which is more stringent and provides the court with more options for punishment and restitution, remains largely unenforced.
The matter came up on Monday at the Serious Offences Court, where a Vermont man, Leroy Patrick, pleaded guilty and was fined EC$400 forthwith or one month in prison for stealing 78 avocados from a fellow villager.
Grant Connell, a lawyer and farmer was sitting at the bar table but was not involved in the case when the matter came up.
He told the court that he had recently met a farmer in Georgetown who has lost half an acre of ginger to thieves.
Connell said that the police do not stop itinerant traders in agricultural produce, known locally as “traffickers”, and check for receipts when they travel across the country making purchases.
He further said that there are also no checks for farmer identification cards, which proves that a person is a registered farmer.
The lawyer said that while he was speaking in both capacities, thankfully, he has another source of income when produce thieves strike.
The chief magistrate told the police officers that when the item stolen is agricultural, the charges should be brought under the Praedial Larceny Act.
Corporal David Wright, a Police Process officer, who was representing the prosecution, rose and told the court that he would personally call the matter to the attention of the commissioner of police.
Connell told the court that he had given a copy of the act to the Georgetown Police Station and that he could do so for every police outpost across the country.