Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett has expressed concern that the prospect of punishment for criminal offences could be losing its deterring effect on young, first-time offenders.
He said that with the guidelines that courts have to follow when imposing sentences, young offenders could be calculating the likely punishment for their crimes.
Burnett made the point at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, while presiding over a case in which a 16-year-old pleaded guilty to a charge of stealing a cellular phone, valued at EC$1,500.
The teen told the court that he had stolen the phone and had thrown it in some bushes.
“You take it and you throw it in bush. Why?” Burnett said.
“I am a modern magistrate but I am also ancient because if I could have done what I want here, you might not have seen the modern side of me,” Burnett said, possibly hinting at corporal punishment.
“Something is changing or has changed — I am told for the better but I am not seeing it,” the senior magistrate said.
Burnett said stealing an item from a teacher would have been the last thing on his mind when he was the defendant’s age.
The teacher’s phone was stolen when she left her office briefly to deliver a message to a student, while the defendant was enrolling at the institution.
“How are young people thinking? Within minutes, look at what he has done… and they have everything going for them, including the justice system,” Burnett further said of young people.
“Because based on the guidelines, I have 18 things to consider in sentencing him.
“And most of them, they point in one direction, that we should not jail young people that easily. And, over time, as smart as they are, they are going to know that. So if they know that before they enter the justice system, what do they expect?” Burnett said.
The prosecutor, acting Corporal of Police Corlene Samuel, who was representing the Crown in the matter, commented:
“They do whatever they want.”
The defendant was ordered to compensate the complainant in the sum of EC$1,500 by March 26, 2021 and to reappear in court on that date.