A 44-year-old Largo Height man has been ordered to pay a fine of EC$1,000 by May 2 or spend six months in prison for being in possession of two stolen sheep.
Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett handed down the sentence on Aldrick Providence last week, one day after the prosecution asked for an adjournment in his matter to verify his conviction record.
However, the court was told on Feb. 10 that there was no update to the record, which showed that Providence’s last offence was seven years ago.
“I do not intend to send him to prison considering the state of his previous conviction,” Burnett said and announced the fine.
“And don’t make this happen again,” Burnett said.
The facts of the case, as ready by prosecutor Corporal of Police Delando Charles, are that about 3:30 a.m. on Dec. 8, 2020, Police Constable 928 Providence telephoned the Central Police Station in respect of two black and brown ewe sheep that were in Alrick’s possession, at Largo Height.
The defendant, who is the officer’s nephew, lives close to the police officer.
Detectives from the Criminal Investigation Department responded to the call and the defendant was met in custody of the officer.
The offence was pointed out to the defendant who, along with the sheep, was taken into custody.
About 7:45 a.m., Station Sergeant of Police Bess, who was living in Green Hill at the time, went to the station and reported that his two black and brown ewe sheep were stolen.
The police showed him the two sheep and he identified them as his and gave a written statement to Police Constable 967 Miller.
Bess valued the sheep at EC$650.
Police asked the defendant to take them where he found the sheep. Providence took the officer to the hills of Largo Height and Green Hill but not to the scene, saying he had marijuana planted there and did not want to be charged.
Providence later volunteered a statement saying that he had taken the sheep to his house.
In mitigation, Providence, a labourer, told the court that the sheep did not belong to him, hence his guilty plea.
“I realised I was wrong,” he said.
“You live close to a policeman and want to behave like this,” Burnett commented.
He added that he was not saying that people should conduct themselves in a particular way because of who they live next to.
Providence told the court that did not plan to do anything with the sheep.
“This is why they were tied behind my house… And I am very sorry about that.”
Burnett told Providence that in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, one would normally read or hear farmers complaining about produce and livestock theft and court not doing anything about it, “meaning they are not happy with the sentencing.
“The court has to pay attention to how the society at large feels about these things,” the magistrate said.
“The court has to be alive, not an abstract concept called a court. It’s a living thing.”
He told Providence that the Parliament is of the view that people convicted of or pleading guilty to handling stolen goods should go to prison for up to two years.
“I didn’t say this. That’s what is prescribed in the statute,” he said.
The magistrate, after consulting Providence’s record, said that his most recent conviction was seven years ago.
Prosecutor Station Sergeant of Police Renrick Cato, who was at the bar table but not prosecuting the matter, also noted the time of the morning when Providence was found with the stolen sheep.
The senior magistrate said: “That is the time they hustle, trying to evade individuals. That’s the time they should be sleeping…
“When I sentence you in this matter, I am sentencing you, an individual but I also have to send a message to persons who might want to do like you. The farmers are complaining to everybody. I’m not deaf.”
Burnett began to compute the sentence, telling Providence that he would be given a one-third discount for his guilty plea. He added that the court would treat him as a person with no conviction, as his last offence was seven years ago.
“Seven years?” Cato said.
“Yes,” Providence responded.
“And you still have the heart to say ‘yes’?” the prosecutor retorted.
Cato asked Providence if he was not convicted for a goat in 2017. The defendant said he was not convicted in 2017.
The prosecutor asked the court for permission to have Providence’s record updated.
The magistrate said that the court could only act based on what is before it. He said that if there is something important that may be added to the record, the court was willing to stand it down.
“Defendant, if you like, you can check but I never had no–” Providence was saying when Cato asked that the sentencing be adjourned to Thursday.
Burnett granted the application, adding, “But he has to remain in custody, I am afraid.”
However, Providence protested, saying that he has a young child, whose mother, and the child’s siblings live with him.
He told the court that he is the only one employed in the house.
However, Cato said that at every court he has worked, he always hears defendants either saying they have a young child, or a child on the way.
Providence sad that he wished the court to sentence him forthwith, saying he has “too much outside to lose” and that he even has a crop
“I does farm too,” he told the court.