A hidden camera that the principal of the Bethel High School installed in an office after money repeatedly went missing at the school has identified the security guard as the thief.
On Friday, at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court, Simon Solomon, 28, of Barrouallie pleaded guilty to a charge that between Nov. 10, 2022 and Feb. 16, 2023, at Camden Park, he entered the Bethel High School as a trespasser and stole EC$1,087.50 in cash and 30 Busta soft drinks, valued at EC$1,177.50, the school’s property.
The facts of the case, as read by prosecutor Corporal 817 Stapleton, are that the defendant has been a security guard at the school for the past 11 months.
On Nov. 10, 2022, Earl Cruickshank, the school’s principal, discovered that EC$200 in cash was missing from the office. He inquired about the missing money but no one seemed to know where it had gone.
On another occasion, Cruickshank discovered EC$45 missing from the said office and on another, EC$54 was missing.
On Jan 19, Cruickshank found EC$65 was missing and EC$417 on Feb 8. On another occasion, he discovered EC$288.50 missing along with 30 Busta soft drinks.
This aroused Cruickshank’s suspicion and he placed a hidden camera in that office and did not inform anyone that the camera was there.
On Feb. 16, 2023 about 3:35 a.m., he was alerted that someone went into the said office.
When Cruickshank reviewed the camera footage, it showed the defendant entering the office through a window.
The police were called in and PC 760 John entertained the report. The defendant was taken into custody and the footage was shown to him and he admitted, under caution, that he burglarised the office and stole the sums of money.
Solomon told the court that he last attended the Barrouallie Technical Institute, and started to work as a security guard at the Barrouallie Government School on March 1, 2019 and was transferred to Bethel in April 2022.
The defendant said he was employed by the government and understood his job was to ensure that the building was secured and no one entered.
“Did that happen?” Senior Magistrate, Rickie Burnett, who was presiding, asked Solomon.
“Yes, sir. When I checked the window, I saw one of the windows does not lock but it does close,” Solomon told the court.
“How I know the computers and other things around and printers around, I go in and make sure everything is good and thing,” he further said, adding that he entered the office through a window.
Solomon admitted to stealing the money. “Sometimes I would not get certain things to pay passage to go to work. I removed the goods and used it to pay passage to go to work.”
The magistrate told Solomon that many years ago when he was working at a particular government department, monies were going missing over a period of time and they were not sure what was happening.
“Eventually, it was an employee,” Burnett said.
The magistrate told Solomon that he could have done other things if he was having difficulty paying for his transportation to work.
He noted that Solomon is now out of a job and cannot be a security guard at any government school again.
Solomon told the court that he would get another job and would be able to repay the school in six weeks.
The defendant told the court that there is a project going on in Barrouallie and there is a guy there who will give him “a pull in”.
The magistrate noted that Solomon has no previous convictions and entered an early guilty plea.
“You seem to provide a reason. I am not sure about that but there is no justification for the crime that was committed by you,” Burnett said.
“You are placed in a position of trust and you did not live up to the expectations of the school.
“I am sure the principal is very disappointed to know that the person who was employed as a security guard to protect the property ended up being the–” Burnett said, but did not complete the thought.
The magistrate told Solomon that he would not impose a custodial sentence and would give him a chance.
He, however, noted that the court can impose a maximum penalty of 14 years for burglary.
“That is the penalty prescribed by Parliament but sentencing is for the judge or the magistrate to do. Having heard the facts and circumstances, I am of the view that a non-custodial sentence is the sentence that I should impose,” Burnett said.
He said the school would be interested in recovering the EC$1,177.50, adding that maybe those are monies from the tuck shop.
Meanwhile, Director of Marion House, Jeanie Ollivierre, who was in court on an unrelated matter, told the court that Marion House, as part of its gender-based violence programme, is building an ecological garden at the back of its Murray’s Road headquarters.
She said people involved can become self-employed and duplicate the garden within their communities or their homes and Solomon can join the programme.
The magistrate suggested that Solomon talk to Ollivierre and see how he could be part of the project.
He, however, ordered Solomon to compensate the school in the same of EC$1,177.50 by May 17 or go to prison for six months.
Further, he was bonded for one year in the sum of EC$1,500. If he breaks the bond, he must pay the sum forthwith or go to prison for six months.
“Mr. Solomon, look at how you have changed your life by this foolish act,” Burnett said.
“What you were doing, it was highly likely that you were going to be caught somewhere down the road, as has happened.”