A farmer who stole two ewe goats on Christmas Eve, allegedly in a drunken state, will have to compensate his fellow villager for the theft in the New Year.
Asford Loraine will also have to abide by the rules of a bond to keep the peace for one year, and should he break this bond, he will have to pay $1500 forthwith, or spend six months in prison.
Loraine, a resident of Owia, admitted before Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court (KMC) yesterday, January 4, that he did, on December 24, 2020, steal one grey and black ewe goat valued $350, and one white ewe goat valued at $160.
The two goats, which may fetch a total price of $510, are the property of one Edward Lavia, another Owia farmer.
It was noted that Loraine was charged under the Agricultural Produce and Livestock Prevention of Theft Act; something which at least one prosecutor has persistently been asking police officers to do.
In this case, Lavia is the owner of a piece of land that he uses to plant crops and rear goats. On December 22, at 6:30 am, Lavia visited his land and left his goats secured with a wooden stake “in good order”, the police report says.
However, two days later, when he returned at 6:30 am to rotate the goats, Lavia noticed that two of the goats were missing. He searched for them, but could not find them.
Lavia returned on Christmas Day, at 6:30 am, to search for his ewe goats once more, but to no avail.
He reported his plight to the Owia Police Station and gave them a statement outlining what had happened. The police visited the scene and launched an investigation.
A breakthrough came on December 28, when Lavia received information about the goats, and took a witness with him to the police station to give a statement.
The police later apprehended the defendant, who went to the Georgetown police station and volunteered a statement acknowledging his guilt.
Loraine is said not to have any previous convictions.
He apparently told the court that he was intoxicated during the event.
When SEARCHLIGHT entered the KMC, the court was discussing the defendant’s alleged state of drunkenness.
The magistrate was telling Loraine that he (the magistrate) doesn’t drink rum, but that he doesn’t believe that when someone drinks rum, stealing goats is one of the things that they do.
Burnett commented on an interview published last weekend by journalist Kenton Chance. Media personnel have had reason to venture to the northerly villages like Fancy, which sit precariously beneath our volcano, La Soufriere, which has been erupting effusively.
Residents have been expressing their feelings about the eruption, and their state of readiness for evacuation.
Experts have said that at any point the effusive eruption may become an explosive eruption, and therefore those in the danger zone continue to remain on high alert, and poised to move out.
Burnett said that Chance’s interview revealed that one of the reasons persons expressed that they were unlikely to evacuate at this time, was because of their produce.
“That’s how important these things are to individuals. They prefer to risk their life to protect their property, Mr Loraine,” he told the defendant.
In discussions, Burnett also told Loraine the farmers are suffering, and the court must protect them.
“This is a problem in St Vincent sir,” the magistrate said.
“He(Loraine) knows the complainant (Lavia) very well and look at what he has done, on Christmas Eve, when mutton is in demand. The court must factor all those things into the sentence,” Burnett said.
He asked the defendant about his occupation, and it was at this point that it was revealed that Loraine was a farmer.
The matter was then stood down for a while.
When the defendant returned to the dock, Burnett told him, “What you did was not right you know. You know that? You can’t be stealing from the farmers sir.”
Loraine replied that it was the first time that it had ever happened.
He was told that it should not have happened at all.
“You are also a farmer,” Burnett said, “why would you want to dispossess Mr Lavia by tiefing his goats and selling them to somebody on Christmas Eve? Why would you do that?”
Loraine said he knows it was wrong.
On the topic of compensation of $510, Loraine claimed he could get the money from his boss, “this week self”.
Burnett commented that a balance must be met, because if he sends him to prison, “what is the complainant going to get?”
“Nothing”, Prosecutor Corporal Corlene Samuel said.
However, Loraine’s reputation is a different matter entirely. “You have one, two, three, four journalists in court,” the magistrate noted.
“…The whole of Owia, they are going to look at you as one of the man in the area who have been stealing animals,” the judicial officer said.
“Yeah I know that,” Loraine replied.
“Your life has changed from this conviction. ‘Animal thief’, that is what the community is going to call you,” Burnett noted.
The sum of $510 must be paid by January 29, or Loraine will spend six months in prison.
The magistrate observed that the other side of things is that what will happen following this sentence is prospective praedial larcenists “they’re going to say ‘Aha, when we do this now the court is going to order us to pay compensation’, that’s what’s going to happen.”