By a stroke of luck a 12-year-old boy did not receive 12 lashes for breaking into a liquor store, unlike his unlucky co-accused who was incarcerated.
The 12-year-old came to court with a co-accused, Devon Francois, who was charged jointly with the young defendant for a burglary committed in May.
Francois was further charged for another solo operation that apparently took place in March.
Francois, 20 years old, pleaded guilty to entering the dwelling house of one Dexroy Edwards in Fitz-Hughes on March 11 and stealing EC $218 and US$300.
The tiny 12-year-old secondary school student then stood in the dock, with obvious difference in height to his co-accused Francois, to be charged with between May 20 and 21, in Fitz-Hughes, he entered the liquor shop of Jarrod Williams.
The duo pleaded guilty to the theft of a number of items from the store, including eight Soca Monarch tickets worth $160, seven bottles of Village Ram, two bottles of Sunset Strong Rum and two boxes of Pal Mal cigarettes, all together worth $338.75.
The wide-eyed pre-teen told Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett that he didn’t understand the charge.
Burnett then read it slowly to him, paraphrasing to make it easier, and asked him, “You did that yes or no?”.
The young defendant replied that he did. “Who and you?” was the second question, and the 12-year-old indicated that he committed the crime with the older defendant.
For the first burglary, committed by Francois alone, the facts were that the occupants of a Fitz-Hughes home had left to attend a funeral on March 11.
This was apparently used as an opportunity for Francois to relieve them of some cash hidden by their dressing table.Burnett said that he noticed a pattern that “when persons are mourning the passing of their loved ones” that people are using the opportunity to enter their house and steal.
Francois said he needed money, to which the response was “if you need money, you work to get money, you understand?”The defendant swallowed after hearing he would spend four years in jail, but showed no more emotion.
After this, the small defendant with his grandmother near him as his voicebox, and the 20-year-old defendant stood before the Magistrate.It was stated that the owner of the liquor shop had apparently noticed after returning to his shop on May 21, that a number of items were missing.
Investigations led the police to one of the defendants’ houses where the police found a bag containing some of the missing items in nearby bushes.Francois told Burnett that the 12-year-old had planned everything, to which the Magistrate responded “You are older than him…you should lead him, not the other way around.”
The grandmother spoke for her grandchild, saying that his parents weren’t around, that he lived with her, but that he was at Francois’ house for the weekend.Burnett asked the grandmother if the boy was a good boy or a bad boy, to which she said “well he does get in to little things.”
“Flogging is still on the books…He need 12 strokes…I’m serious. He need some licks, legally that is,” the Magistrate opined, as a police officer and others in court, nodded in agreement.He asked the grandmother if he should flog the defendant, and she stated firmly “Yes, please.”
Burnett then asked attorney Jomo Thomas what his thoughts were.Thomas indicated that the fact that the 12-year-old was being led by someone close to him “should be the central part.”
He stated that at 12 one is “still very, very impressionable.”As it relates to corporal punishment, the lawyer stated that he was “fundamentally opposed to such a thing.” “Flogging may not kill you, but flogging may scar you,” he said.
He ended by saying, “I don’t think it’s something that we should bring back as a form of punishment.”
The young boy had stared at Thomas for the entirety of this speech, with a focused expression on his face.
Prosecutor Corlene Samuel also came to the boy’s rescue asking that section 37 of the criminal code be effected, and that the boy receive counselling.Section 37 would have the effect of not recording the conviction against the young boy.
Burnett stated, “I want him to feel that he did something wrong,” but acknowledged that section 37 should be used for young defendants.He effected section 37, and requested a report from the boy’s secondary school counsellor at intervals of three and six months.
“If you want to tief, tief alone,” Burnett told Francois, as he gave him a further two years in prison, to run consecutively to the four years he received before.