Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett has suggested that some offenders be ordered to perform clean-up duties in the Red Zone, when it is safe to do so, as part of their sentence.
He floated the idea at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court last week as he mulled over a sentence for a repeat offender.
The court was considering the sentence for Javid Clarke, who had stolen a pair of sunglasses, valued at EC$20, from a Kingstown retail business on April 28.
“I am thinking about it because sending Javid to prison is sending Javid home,” Burnett said of the offender, who is a known character around Kingstown.
“Honestly, I am thinking of utilising defendants like him to do community service by helping individuals to get back on their feet, as it were,” Burnett said.
He asked the prosecutor to address the court on the matter, saying that he plans to speak to someone about it.
However, the prosecutor, acting Corporal of Police Corleen Samuel, told the court that one of the issues is that Clarke has no fixed place of abode.
The magistrate, however, said that he understands that, but the mechanism could be put in place to keep him at a fixed place of abode at the expense of the state and have him “go and do some hard work.
“There is a lot of work to be done and I am of the view that we could find a way to utilise defendants like him,” Burnett said.
The magistrate said that the court has to be creative.
But Samuel said the clean-up has not started and whether the court could keep him in custody until then.
She said it is already hard enough finding places to house persons who are not in the criminal system, adding that the only other place where Clarke could be kept is at prison or a police station.
Samuel said that she was not making excuses but things are difficult in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the extra duties that police officers have to perform as a result of the eruption of La Soufriere.
“However, putting this man on the street, he is a completely different person when he is out there and it would be hard to keep track of Javid when he has the ‘white lady’, he is a completely different person,” Samuel said.
She said that prison is not helping Javid but the court had to also think of the people who keep suffering losses as a result of Clarke’s crimes.
On the specific issue of sentencing offenders to perform community service, namely, cleaning up in the Red Zone as part of their sentence, the prosecutor said, “We are going to need as much help as we could get” because of the amount of volcanic ash and other debris.
“It is not a bad idea,” the she told the magistrate, who said that the idea had just come to him as he was handling the case
“I don’t want to call him a nuisance, because he is an individual,” the senior magistrate commented.
In the end, he ordered Clarke –who came to court with the EC$20 to pay for the sunglasses — to compensate the virtual complainant in the sum of EC$20.
Clarke was further sentenced to three months in prison, suspended for one year.
Later in the sitting, the magistrate said that he had found a section of the law under which offenders could be ordered to perform community service as part of their sentence.