Understanding the Law
February 9, 2007
Burglary and robbery

Again we have had a spate of burglaries. I can empathize with these persons because I myself have been a victim of two burglaries one in 2004 and another in 2005. I contacted someone whose house was burglarized around the same time as mine and he said that his house was burglarized again in 2006 making it the fifth time that his house was burglarized. Last weekend’s newspapers informed us about burglaries in the market shops in capital Kingstown. While one victim claimed that her shop was broken into for the first time another claimed that hers had been broken into thirteen times. According to one newspaper there was a ‘Burglar’s rampage” in the Upper Middle and Sharpe Street areas. The object of these burglars is to take in one swoop what others have worked for over many years.{{more}} They invade our privacy and make us feel powerless and fearful.

Burglars’ rampage

The burglars are emboldened today. Gone are the days when some citizens could leave their doors open. I say some citizens because the burglars are choosing the homes that they think would bring the highest rewards. We heard, not too long ago, from the couple in Harmony Hall whose home was entered into in broad day light while they were up preparing breakfast. Hopefully this is not a new trend. Some of the break-ins that occurred in 2005 were during the day when the home owner or occupiers were out of their houses.

Be Prepared!

Again I make a call to be prepared for the thieves. Burglar bars are no longer barriers to them. They take along instruments to rip these out of the wall. Get some one to stay in your house when you are away. That person could, at the very least, call the police if there is a threat. Doors and windows must be securely fastened. A dog on the property could ward off any intrusion and alert you. If these do not work for you then you would have to look to the world of electronics for protection. A burglar alarm / motion detector device could alert you to any intrusion but it could be triggered off by rustling trees or animals. You could also use cameras with a DVR (Digital Video Recorder). There are those which are motion detectors and which would only record movements. Then there are web cameras for recording and transmitting via the internet to your computers and cell phones. We have to protect ourselves. Burglars are becoming more insistent. We have to step up our actions. Home surveillance systems are available if you can afford it.

Similarities and differences between burglars and robbers.

Both burglars and robbers steal from you and commit offences against your property but a burglar enters a building such as your house, vehicle or vessel as a trespasser with the intention of committing an offence while the robber meets you on the street or open space and “puts or seeks to put you in fear of being subjected to force”. Where a person enters a house with the intention of committing or commits an offence and is found liable, the punishment is fourteen years imprisonment. Where the burglar carries a firearm, weapon of explosive, if found guilty, he would be liable to life imprisonment. This is the same punishment for robbery.

Hope for reform

No one is serving a punishment of life imprisonment for burglary or robbery presently. This is because of the provision in the law for mitigation. The persons who commit these crimes are persons without a steady source of income. Some of them are repeat offenders. Obviously we need to focus more on the offenders with a view to reform so that law abiding citizens could live comfortable lives.

• Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com