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Today's Date: 22 December 2014
Last Updated: 21 December 2014 17:18:16 EST
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Jail sentence set for post–Ivan burglary

Two young men were sentenced to prison terms last week after they were found guilty of burgling a store shortly after Hurricane Ivan.

Todd Bowen, 21, received a term of 15 months and Harrington Rivers, 23, received 18 months. The difference was that Bowen had no previous criminal convictions.

Defence Attorneys Irvin Banks and John Furniss gave notice of appeal.

Magistrate Margaret Ramsay–Hale found the two guilty after hearing evidence of events in Savannah on 15–16 September 2004, when Grand Cayman was under curfew and there was no electricity outside of George Town.

A group of Immigration officers, sworn in as special constables, were on patrol under the leadership of Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Dennis Brady, a former senior police officer.

Officers heard a noise coming from the direction of Tall Tree and Mr. Brady radioed vehicles to come to the scene. By headlights and a powerful handheld light, he and another officer said they saw and recognised two men running from the gift shop on Pedro Castle Road.

Officers ran after them, but the sound of shots being fired caused them to drop to the ground.

A car was near by with its bonnet still warm and Mr. Brady posted two officers to keep observation. Later the officers saw two men come out of the bush and walk to an abandoned house near the gift shop, then return to the vehicle.

Mr. Brady was waiting down the road and stopped the car. Bowen and Rivers were inside.

Asked what they were doing out after curfew, each said he had been visiting a girl. Checks by police showed their stories were not true.

The occupant of the house indicated by Rivers said no girl lived there by the name he had given. The girl named by Bowen denied seeing him; she further stated that she had been sleeping in the same room with her parents since the storm.

Mr. Banks and Mr. Furniss argued that the untruthful alibi involving the girls was not evidence of guilt in the burglary; the defendants could have made up the story because of the curfew breach.

In her reasons for returning the guilty verdict, the magistrate said she was satisfied that the light described by the officers was sufficient for them to identify the men running from the shop. But the circumstances of the identification were undoubtedly difficult. No one here after the storm could forget the almost impenetrable darkness, she commented.

She therefore looked for independent evidence in support of the identification before accepting it because honest witnesses may be mistaken. Extra care had to be taken when the identification occurred at night.

The magistrate referred to other facts relied on in the case put forward by Senior Crown Counsel Adam Roberts.

For example, Bowen had been seen on the road by a police officer earlier that night and had told the officer his car was broken down. The officer went to get jumper cables and when he returned the car was gone.

The car kept under observation was a few yards from the gift shop, but over a half–mile from where the defendants had said they visited girls.

When the officers watching the car observed two men coming out of the bush, they heard one of the men make a comment about the stupid police, referring to a confrontation earlier. The Defence had said there was no evidence that the men coming out of the bush were the same two men who subsequently got into the car.

The magistrate said it would be too great a coincidence for two other men to be walking toward that same house who also would have had an earlier confrontation with officers.

“This was post–Ivan. Very few people were on the road – not just because of the curfew but because of the darkness,” she pointed out.

The coincidences and the lies supported the visual identification made by the officers, the magistrate said in delivering her verdict.

Mr. Banks said it was painful to discuss sentencing options for young men of Bowen’s age.

Suggesting probation or a suspended sentence, Mr. Banks declared, “We have to find a way of bringing him back into society.”

The defendant came from a respectable family and had no history with the court except traffic, he pointed out. All items stolen had been recovered when they were dropped by whoever ran from the store.

For Rivers, Mr. Furniss pointed to the nature of his previous convictions and his relatively young age.

The magistrate said sentencing was painful not only to attorneys but also the court. The entire community suffers the loss of its children to an anti–social lifestyle that does not profit the young person or advance the community in any way.

This offence was after the storm – “a harrowing and difficult time for all of us. You sought to take advantage of someone when all of us were struggling to come to terms with our losses… Not that burglary after a storm is worse than any other burglary… but I have to tell you, the fact that you took advantage of the situation after the storm to steal rather than offer yourselves for service is appalling,” the magistrate said.

 
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