Young offender avoids prison thanks to lawyer’s plea
From the Courts, News
September 29, 2023
Young offender avoids prison thanks to lawyer’s plea

A Layou youth who was unrepresented during his arraignment, dodged a prison sentence for burglary after a lawyer pleaded with the magistrate for a non-custodial sentence.

Philbert Stephens, 20 appeared at the Kingstown Magistrate’s court earlier this month before Magistrate John Ballah where he pleaded guilty that on August 31, 2023 he did enter the dwelling house of Ashanna Fisher of Brighton as a trespasser and stole EC$1,200 in cash.

The facts are that Fisher is living in Brighton in a two storey building that is secured with four panel boards, mortice locks, a bolt and several windows. The ground floor is where she operates her business, while the top floor is being used as her living quarters.

On August 31, 2023, about 9:00am, Fisher left her purse containing EC$1,200 in cash in a chair and went downstairs to operate her business. While she was going about her duties in her store, she spotted Stephens who appeared to be browsing about her store, but did not purchase anything.

About 3:00pm on the same day, she went upstairs for her purse but saw that it was empty. She enquired her staff about the money, then thought about Stephens who appeared to be suspicious, however she did not know his name.

On September 7, 2023 while she was at her business place, she saw Stephens outside of her building and remembered his face. She then told her mother that he might have been the person who took the money, and so her mother questioned Stephens.

Stephens admitted to the offence. As a result, the matter was reported to the police and PC 976 Edwards cautioned Stephens and interviewed him in the presence of another police officer. Stephens then gave a statement to the police admitting to the offence.

However, Stephens told the court that he went upstairs of the building in search of a bathroom and was unable to ask for directions as there was no one about to assist.

During his search, Stephen’s said that he saw the money in the chair, took it and then used the bathroom afterwards.

A search was conducted at Stephen’s house where two shirts that were bought with the money were handed over to the police.

However, although Stephen’s came before the court unrepresented, lawyer Ronald Marks who happened to be in court for another matter spoke on behalf of the youth and asked the court to consider Stephen’s age when deciding on his fate.

“What good is it for all parties if he’s in jail [and] can’t pay back the money?”

Marks suggested a monetary sanction to be imposed, though admitting that he is unaware of Stephen’s ability to pay the sum.

However, Stephens told the court that gets paid $600 every fortnight working in Buccament. Marks then asked the court to consider this as he is on the brink of receiving a custodial sentence.

“Because counsel I do not like to deviate from the sentencing guidelines and based on what you’re suggesting as I am browsing through..he’s there,” the magistrate responded.

The magistrate referred to the sentencing guidelines and found that the offence falls within a custodial sentence of one year. When he considered the mitigating and aggravating factors of both the offence and the offender as well as Stephens guilty plea, the court sentenced him to eight months suspended for one year and he was ordered to compensate Fisher a sum of $1,200 in four months in default six months imprisonment.