From the Courts
January 19, 2018
Judge shaves four months off Tombstone’s sentence

Veteran con artist Alister ‘Tombstone’ Smith has had four months shaved off one of his sentences, because of a lack of transparency in his previous sentencing.

Smith, who had been sentenced to two years in prison for four charges of obtaining property by deception last May, chose to appeal his sentence at this sitting of the Appeal Court.

This sentence of two years, handed down by magistrate Bertie Pompey at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court, was to run consecutively to eight years imprisonment, which he received from the High Court in 2015.

Chief Justice Dame Janice M Pereira noted that the maximum sentence of two years had been applied and questioned the process in reaching the sentence.

Attorney for the Crown Sejilla McDowall stated that it was an exceptional case, as Smith had a track record of 49 similar offences and under such special circumstances, the sentence was applied.

However, the Chief Justice stated that the sentence should have still shown how the sentence got back up to the maximum after subtracting the guilty plea.

The Crown also noted that the maximum sentence if the matter had gone to the High Court would have been 10 years.

Pereira responded by saying “What I don’t think is right is when the sentencing approach becomes skewed” because of attempts to reach the maximum.

Another justice of appeal, Justice Paul Anthony Webster, further intoned that “the role of the guilty plea is too important,” adding that it “doesn’t send the right message.”

The Crown stated that they were advancing that in reviewing the sentence, it can be seen how the two years can still be achieved.

The Chief Justice countered by saying that even before one could get to speaking about the offender and his record, “it is nowhere reflective in the reasoning whatsoever that he got his 1/3 discount” for pleading guilty at the earliest opportunity.

Also explaining, Justice Mario Michel clarified that even if the magistrate were to be declining to apply the discount, as he was able to, the “literature is very clear” that the magistrate should indicate that he was doing so and why.

In giving her decision, the Chief Justice stated that the court is “minded to interfere with the sentence, so that the record reflects the approach that ought to be taken.”

Pereira stated that starting at the norm of 18 months, and subtracting the one-third for the guilty plea, this would leave the court with 12 months. However, she stated that following this, looking at the record and the fact that no defrauded persons have got back their money, another eight months may be added to this. Therefore, in the end a sentence of 20 months was decided upon, to run consecutively with his other term of eight years.(KR)