Senior Magistrate defends decision to jail garlic thief
The Senior Magistrate has defended a previous decision of his to jail a man for six months for the theft of garlic, noting that the defendant had gone to great lengths to deceive the police.
Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett returned to this case while determining the sentence of Denzil Sardine of Kingstown Park, who had pleaded guilty to stealing a single pair of shades worth $10 from Jax Enterprises on Monday, August 26.
“Though the item may be small, the offence is called theft…and the penalty, it is the same, no matter if the item is small or it’s a big or large item,” he told the court and the defendant, a vendor who has been selling breadfruit and saltfish for seven to eight years.
He noted that persons tend to feel that when the item is small, the court should not impose a heavy penalty, the magistrate pointed out.
Addressing defence lawyer Israel Bruce who was seated at the bar table, he commented that he had made a “name for himself” for giving a “gentleman” six months in jail for stealing garlic.
“…But what the public did not know is that that particular defendant took the police to two different places claiming that he got the garlic from those business places,” Burnett informed.
“He took the police to two separate places and when the tags did not match to those business places then is when he actually admitted to stealing the items,” the magistrate revised.
“And when somebody operates like that, I mean what should a court really do to you?,” he asked the lawyer.
“Well the public took me to task for that sentence but look at how the defendant conducted himself,” he commented, adding that in his view the sentence was appropriate.
The defence counsel responded to the magistrate, saying, “I have had the experience most recently in the BVI, most of the times when the media and the public engage in some discussion, very often they don’t have the full picture.”
Bruce said that he was saying that to say that every media house has a responsibility that if they are reporting on transactions in the court that they report in a way that “full understanding” is had.
“It has to be understood that if you report to the public that a man get six months for stealing two heads of garlic that on the very surface of it, it comes out very ugly a sentence,” the lawyer commented.
“You’re right Mr Bruce because when persons are reading these articles they accepted that, what is reported, those are the facts, even though there may be omissions from the story, and they form an opinion based on what they read,” the magistrate pointed out. He stated that he would be happy to be out of the news soon, referring to his appointment as Acting Master of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court(ECSC).
It would seem that the case the magistrate was referring to was the sentencing of 46-year-old repeat offender Colin Williams in November 2017 to six months incarceration for stealing four bags of garlic. Williams had told the magistrate he needed the garlic to season tri-tri.
In the case of Sardine, the magistrate chose to bond him for six months in the sum of $500. If he breaches this bond then he will pay this money forthwith of spend two months in prison.
He explained that there were three powerful mitigating factors including that the defendant was 52 years old, had no previous convictions and had pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity.
The defendant had explained that he had placed the shades in his pocket even though it was wrong because he was “absent minded.”
“I did not know that I forgot to pay and then I walk out, I didn’t deliberately stole (sic) the thing. I will not stole (sic) a sunglasses for $10, I definitely wouldn’t do that, that is the whole truth,” Sardine told Burnett.
The magistrate in addressing Sardine noted that almost every week persons are coming before him for stealing small items from Massy Stores or Jax Enterprises.
“And the business place, I believe, they want to send a message to persons that if you come in and you steal and you are caught, you will be arrested by the police,” he explained.
He commented that if the business places allow persons to come in and steal an item every day, “what are they going to have?”