The white Suzuki Escudo jeep, number plate P5849
From the Courts
July 12, 2022
Unlicensed driver who struck, killed corn vendor to pay family

A young mechanic with no driver’s license was revealed to have taken his boss’ vehicle without consent before he accidentally struck and killed a roadside vendor in 2019.

Lorenzo McLean was around 25 years old at the time and worked for Ronald St Hilaire at a garage located in Diamond.

On October 15, 2019, McLean made a decision to take the keys of his boss’ white Suzuki Escudo jeep, number plate P5849, without his knowledge.

The deceased, Josephine Robertson was selling roast corn along the public road at Stubbs as she was used to doing.

She crossed the road to go to a small wooden structure to pick some soursop bush.

McLean was seen speeding the vehicle along the public road from the direction of the Stubbs Polyclinic towards Diamond.

“The vehicle was also heard revving as it drove past the corner in the direction of the shed,” Justice Angelica Teelucksingh-Ramoutar stated, as she reviewed the facts of that fateful day during her sentencing at the High Court on July 1.

The jeep spun to the right side of the road.

“The prisoner attempted to manoeuvre the vehicle back to the left side of the road. But he eventually lost control. The back wheel of the vehicle then hit on a wall and the vehicle sped in the direction of where one, Mr Enrique France was sitting and where the deceased was standing,” the judge revised.

The jeep hit both of them, France first and Robertson second, and both went over an embankment. The vehicle came to a rest by two banana plants near the wooden structure. McLean exited the vehicle and reported the matter to the Stubbs police station.

“The deceased’s body was removed from the bottom of the embankment and taken to the Stubbs polyclinic where at 1:20 p.m she was pronounced dead,” the Justice informed.

An examination of the vehicle revealed that the left front tyre was blown out but the lights, brakes and steering were in good working condition.

McLean told the police that he was travelling when he, “try to pull a fourth (gear), did not get a fourth so me push back in third.”

“When me let go the clutch the back wheel burn out and the vehicle spin and sped over the bank down in the corner,” he explained.

He said he tried to pull away from “the lady” but the vehicle struck her and went over the bank.

A post mortem revealed that 48-year-old Josephine died from multiple trauma to the chest.

In a later electronic interview with the police, the young man said he lost control of the vehicle “for reasons unknown.”

“He hit the side walk where there were about six individuals there and at that point could not control the vehicle any more. He said almost everyone ran but he was not sure if he had hit anyone or anything,” Teelucksingh-Ramoutar said.

When the jeep stopped and he exited, he told the police he looked for his phone and proceeded to the road.

He saw the body of the deceased and saw that she seemed to be unconscious. McLean then sought help at the Stubbs police station.

McLean admitted not to be the holder of a driver’s permit but said he was driving for four to five weeks prior.

He said the reason he took the key without the owner’s knowledge was to purchase food at a nearby shop.

McLean was on the job for seven weeks when this incident happened. Further, he denied any influence of alcohol or that he was speeding but was instead travelling at 32/33 miles per hour.

He repeated his story about trying to go to fourth gear, only managing third, releasing the clutch and the vehicle spinning out of control.

“He admitted that on the material day it was sunny and that the road was dry and he stated that although he knew that on prior occasions the corner area of the road had gravel he was unaware that such was the situation at the time,” the judge noted.

The family of the deceased has been significantly impacted psychologically and financially following the death of their loved one. Josephine was mother to five children and her youngest daughter has been orphaned. She was the only child to her mother, Sheena Robertson, who is overwhelmed with the responsibility of trying to support her grandchildren. One of Josephine’s sons suffered a mental breakdown.

Sheena was disturbed by McLean’s lack of accountability and the fact that he hadn’t reached out since the accident.

However, McLean apologized to her in the court and said he was “very sorry” for everything that was happening “but at the moment I could not express my feelings because there were a lot of threats, confrontation. I find it rather hard to do so with people trying to harass me.”

He offered compensation and said if there is a way to make things right he would.

As for himself, McLean is said to be a caregiver for a 78-year-old man who is a cripple. He shares a good relationship with the community and is not known to get into trouble.

He was described by the elderly man’s daughter as “‘respectable and kind and would have taken on the responsibility to provide a substitute, fatherly, supervisory position over three children who had been adopted and resided in the said home.”

Stephen and Art Williams defended McLean, while Renee Simmons was counsel for the Crown.

Both sides in their submissions were of the view that a suspended sentence was appropriate (the prison sentence would not take effect unless McLean falls afoul of the law again within a certain period).

The court also looked at the sentencing guidelines and a number of similar cases sentenced by the High Court previously where suspended sentences were imposed.

“This court, having regard to the authorities, is of the view that the sentence that I will now calculate as per the sentencing guidelines of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) will not exceed three years and having regard to the facts of this case and the aforementioned authority cited and submissions of both counsels, that this court is of the view that a suspended sentence is appropriate,” the judge stated.

By the time the calculations were applied the court was left with a sentence of three years and two months for the count of causing death by dangerous driving. After the one third discount for a guilty plea was subtracted, the court was left with two years and one month. This was suspended for three years.

McLean is also disqualified from holding or obtaining a driver’s license for the next 10 years and must pay $30,000 in compensation to the victim’s family within six months.

For driving without a permit he was fined $2500 to be paid within a week. He was also driving while uninsured, and was fined $5000 for this offence to be paid within two weeks. Failure to pay any of these sums will result in him being taken back before the court for sentencing.

[Updated:July 14, 2022 @3:20 pm to change the name Allana Cumberbatch to Renee Simmons]