A 16-year-old cocaine addict who, along with two men, stole EC$68,000 in wrist watches and other items from a Kingstown store, may have forfeited the opportunity the court gave him to stay out of prison.
On Friday, hours after police officers escorted the teen to Marion House, in keeping with the court order that he enrols in their youth assistance programme for a year or go to prison for 12 months, the teen was back on the streets of Kingstown, where he had been living before his arrest last December.
Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett spent an especially long time over Thursday and Friday trying to arrive at an appropriate sentence for the youth, who told the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court that his mother is dead and his father and brother, both of whom are inmates, would beat him up if he is sent to either of the nation’s prisons.
The teen, who has been on remand since being charged on Dec. 29, told the court that his father, who is serving a 26-year sentence for attempted murder, had slapped him repeatedly at His Majesty’s Prison.
The teen, along with Kamal “Condom” Small, 31, of Penniston, and Jomo Ronaldo Lyttle aka “Thug” and “Jacob”, 42, of Redemption Sharpes, were convicted of a charge that on Dec. 26, 2022 — Boxing Day — at Grenville Street, Kingstown, they entered the Platinum Divas Store as trespassers and stole 300 stainless steel Skemei wrist watches, valued at EC$67,500, one blow hair dryer, valued at EC$150 and a quantity of female accessories, valued at EC$500, total value, EC$68,150, the property of Mohammad Afaneh, of Cane Garden.
Further, the teen was found guilty of damage to property in relation to a smashed window at the store.
The three defendants told the court that they use cocaine. They had denied committing the offence despite video footage of them in the act.
At their sentencing, they each said that they were under the influence of cocaine at the time of the crime.
The teen, who according to the evidence in the trial, had said that he was “going to hot up the police head” on the night of the burglary, broke the store window.
However, the footage showed that Small removed the bulk of the items. Lyttle told the court that he only removed 17 watches.
Small and Lyttle said they did not plan to commit the crime but stole the items after they saw the broken store window.
Burnett commented that the teen seemed to have been so heavily under the influence of drugs that he did not even seem to know what had happened to him.
The teen told the court about his experience in prison.
“[My father] does beat me round there. My big brother is doing 20 years because he shoot a man. So, if you sentence me, I might go round and meet him,” he told the court.
The magistrate said he knows the teen’s parents from their interactions with the courts in the districts.
“So, I am not surprised that you are like that because of the parents that you have. I know them from the court. So based on his socialisation, I am not surprised that he is before me,” Burnett said.
He said the Court of Appeal guidelines suggest that prison is not the right place for a 16-year-old.
Burnett, however, noted the teen’s previous convictions including theft of a phone, and further pointed out that the teen had threatened the complainant in the extant theft matter.
Meanwhile, the prosecutor, acting Corporal of Police, Corlene Samuel said while the Crown is mindful of the teen’s family situation, he had been given many opportunities to get his life on track.
The teen admitted to the court that he had threatened the complainant, adding that he desisted after the prosecutor spoke to him about it.
“[He] had so many opportunities. Liberty Lodge tried over and over. Last time he left [his foster mother’s home], he went to Liberty Lodge. He jumped the fence and left,” the prosecutor said.
The teen, however, countered that he left because the woman’s son used to beat him up a lot.
He further suggested that his situation is not that straight forward. “You all ain’t go understand me,” he told the court. “The thing with me is that somebody influence me with cocaine,” he said, adding that someone gave him the drug in 2022.
The teen told the court that he does not like to be in prison.
“Every time I round there, I does think. I saw my daddy in prison, he give me couple slap and thing. I told the super, Bailey, don’t put me back in the same cell. Plus, my brother, if I go down [to Belle Isle Correctional Facility] and meet he, my face going mash up. So, pressure.”
The magistrate inquired about whether the teen would be isolated from hardened criminals if the court imposed a custodial sentence.
Samuel said it can be done “once the order is made”.
The prosecutor said that while the defendant was not a virgin to the law. “That is something we have to bear in mind. If [he] goes on the road, as soon as he leaves here, he is going to Paul’s Lot and back on cocaine.
“Sending him in prison, there is a risk, but I am suggesting that you send him to prison for a while so that he can dry out and get it out of his system. It is sad. We don’t have any other way to deal with him,” Samuel told the court.
The magistrate concluded that if the teen burglar is not institutionalised, he would be back on the street of Kingstown using cocaine that very night.
“No! No!” the teen maintained, adding that his father beat him for using cocaine.
“You are round there the man them watching you, watching you,” the teen said, suggesting that he could also be a victim of rape in prison.
The teen told the court he had only done remand time in prison and has never served a sentence there.
Burnett said if the teen serves a prison sentence, “that might be the end of his opportunities to live any normal life.
“But if we put him back on the street, he is likely to use cocaine again. It’s a lose-lose situation,” the magistrate concluded.
He then decided to summon Jeanie Ollivierre, of Marion House, to see if there is anything that the professional counselling centre could do for the teen.
On Friday, before the teen was released into the custody of her organisation, Ollivierre told the court:
“We are not miracle workers and we are not prophets. We try our best and we want [this teen] to know in this court that you will be monitored. You will become one of our children.”
The teen said he had seen his father in prison Thursday night and his father “cussed me and tell me to keep from jail”.
“It must be a terrible thing for a father to see his son come join him in jail,” the senior magistrate said.