A prosecutor has called for tougher penalties for people found in possession of stolen goods.
The prosecutor, Inspector of Police Renick Cato made the call at the Serious Offences Court as the Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne was considering the sentence for a man found in possession of items stolen from a primary school.
“I am of the view that Parliament has to review the sentence. Theft is two years; handling is two years,” Cato noted to the court on Tuesday.
“There is an old saying that the upholder is worse than the thief and when you have a market for stolen goods, I am of the view that these persons must be dealt with seriously,” the prosecutor said.
“The police were investigating a report of burglary from Prep School where these items were reported missing,” he noted.
The defendant, Bryan Richards, a 53-year-old tattoo artist, of Bridgetown, Biabou, who has a long history of offences of dishonesty, was jailed for 20 months for his offence.
The chief magistrate handed down the prison sentence despite the pleadings of Richards’ lawyer, Carl Williams, who asked for a non-custodial sentence.
Richards pleaded guilty to a charge that between Oct. 6 and 17, at Bridgetown, Biabou, knowing or believing that one black 32-inch TCL television, one white Frigidaire microwave and two boxes of shoe racks to be stolen goods, dishonestly received same for his benefit.
The facts of the case are that detective acting Corporal 540 Sam of the Criminal Investigation Department was investigating a burglary at the Kingstown Preparatory School (KPS).
On Sunday, about 1 p.m. Sam received certain information as a result of which he executed a search warrant on Monday about 5:45 a.m. at the defendant’s home in Bridgetown, Biabou.
The defendant was met at home and Sam asked him if he had anything to declare regarding the report of burglary and he responded “No.”
During the search, the officers recovered on black 32″ TCL television and one white Frigidaire microwave in the living room and kitchen. Two boxes of shoe racks were found in the bedroom cupboard.
When cautioned, Richard said, “I buy them long time.”
Later that same day, Sam showed the items to the principal of the school and she recognised them by their serial numbers and model numbers as the items stolen from the school.
Richards later told Sam under caution, “I buy the things them from a crackhead (crack addict) for $90.”
In mitigation, Williams told the court that his client had been trying to amend his way after being released from prison a year ago.
“He was trying to amend his way before falling prey to this offer to buy the stolen items,” he said, adding that Richards had been to prison more than once and has a long conviction sheet but there seems to be nothing in prison to rehabilitate him.
The lawyer said the court should consider the fact that Richards pleaded guilty to the offence.
“And guilty he must have been when we consider the fact that a television would not be valued, even in its oldest stage, $90,” the lawyer said.
“This is a matter where the police need to be commended for moving in such a swift manner to retrieve the stolen items. I wish this would also be done with respect to predial larceny that is widespread throughout this country,” Williams told the court.
“This is an offence committed, which no one would actually show any appreciation for. But he doesn’t have to be sent to prison. The court could consider other means of punishment.”
He noted that the court could impose a sentence, suspect that sentence, order compensation or fine Richards.
He said that sending Richards to prison was not going to be of much benefit to the society at large.
“It would have to be … another set of public funds to actually keep him at the prison,” he said, adding that the court should really consider a non-custodial sentence even though Richards has a record of so many convictions.
“I should add that he has a family. He has what I would say a responsibility to take his daughter to school and from school,” the lawyer said, adding that it would be a problem for Richards to arrange transportation for the child if he is incarcerated.
The chief magistrate asked about the whereabouts of the child’s mother and Richards said she works.
“The defendant had an addiction problem—” the magistrate further stated.
Williams told the court that his client had told him that he had gotten over his addiction.
“Sending him to prison may just cause him to fall back into that because it is also a fact that these things are present at prisons also,” Williams said.
The chief magistrate told the lawyer that while she noticed that Richards’ criminal record is quite lengthy, the document was not up to date, in light of the fact that he was released from prison last year, and the last conviction on record was in 2013.
“So, some things are missing from here. So, it would seemingly be in the last period he got over the addiction,” Browne said.
“Yes, ma’am. I am working also,” Richards said.
Meanwhile, Cato told the court that while many of Richards’ offences are spent, they date back to 1987 and the court must take account of the offences, which are mainly burglary, theft and handling stolen goods.
But Williams protested that Richards was not in court for any of these offences.
“It does indicate a propensity for such offences,” the chief magistrate commented.
Cato said that all but one of Richards’ 32 convictions were for offences of dishonesty.
“Although it is not on the card, he just came out of prison last year for burglary. It is not the duty of the court to sentence someone to please the public but the court has a duty to the public to help the public to feel safe,” the prosecutor said.
He said the only penalty that Richards deserved was a custodial sentence.
“Thank God for those persons who have those serial numbers,” the prosecutor said.
In handing down her sentence, the chief magistrate noted that some of the items were stolen from KPS, which, located in Kingstown, is some distance from Richards’ home.
She noted his antecedent history, which lists 32 convictions, adding that he had been jailed for some of the offences.
Browne said that Richards has exhibited traits of a recidivist.
“Are we to be concerned by persons purchasing television, microwaves, shoe racks for $90 when their value is well within the thousands?” she said.
“For God’s sake, paying $90 for items well worth in the thousands. This shows clearly that the defendant was seen as a ready market,” she said.
The chief magistrate established a starting sentence of 65% of the maximum two-year sentence — 15 months.
After considering the aggravating and mitigating features of the offence and the offender, she arrived at a sentence of 20 months’ imprisonment.
Browne ordered restitution of the items to KPS.
“And I’ll advise you, Mr. Richards, that you have a right to appeal the sentence if you are at all aggrieved.”