Saying she wanted to pass a sentence that would deter other such crimes, Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale sentenced a visitor to nine months in jail Thursday after he pleaded guilty to two charges of theft.
Paul Daniel Rhoden, 27, was advised of his right to appeal and was told he would get credit for time in custody.
Rhoden told the court he had a friend and a cousin here and had been coming to Cayman since 1991. He is from Clarendon, Jamaica.
He said he was very poor and Hurricane Ivan had mashed up his home.
The magistrate asked who had bought his ticket. Told it was his godmother, she commented that the money might have been better spent in helping to rebuild the house.
She also questioned his plea of poverty because of the frequency of his visits here.
There is as yet no visa requirements for Jamaicans travelling to Cayman, the magistrate noted. The relationship between the two countries is old.
‘People like you who abuse [that relationship] are slowly but surely eroding the affection that once existed between Caymanians and Jamaicans,’ she said. ‘There is an increasing reluctance to have Jamaicans in our midst.’
The ramifications of Rhoden’s conduct went far beyond himself, she noted. His mitigation of poverty was self-serving and self-pitying. ‘There are many, many men who are poor but do not steal,’ she pointed out.
A pre-sentence report spoke of his remorse, but the magistrate suggested his remorse was at being caught.
Rhoden could get only minimal credit for his guilty pleas, the magistrate explained, because nothing he did caused the stolen money to be recovered.
‘It is to the credit of the witness who saw you. Without that private citizen you would not be here,’ she said.
Crown Counsel Lindsay Cacho gave the background to the charges and detailed the role of the private citizen.
Both offences occurred on Monday, 14 February.
The first was at a court office in Kirk House. A staff member had put her handbag in a desk drawer. She left the office briefly; when she returned the handbag was gone. It contained a credit card and US$200. A report was made to police.
Later, the defendant visited a store at a downtown shopping mall. He spoke with an attendant, asked about prices of items and complained they were too expensive.
The attendant went to assist other customers. Later she saw the defendant leaving the store with a pack of cigarettes and a brown envelope.
The defendant was also seen by the owner of another shop nearby. This witness saw Rhoden come out of the store and jump over a fence. That action, plus the fact that the man had a lady’s handbag, made the witness suspicious.
He therefore followed Rhoden and saw him enter a bargain shop on Walkers Road. Rhoden came out soon after, wearing a different coloured shirt.
The witness phoned police, who arrived soon after and caught up with Rhoden at another nearby store.
The defendant was found to have US$200 and the credit card belonging to the first complainant. In the brown envelope he had US$4,577.
Rhoden admitted the items were the proceeds of his day’s activities.
Mr. Cacho advised the court that the property had been returned to the owners.
The magistrate said Rhoden had been bold to go to a court office and steal. ‘It’s almost like you’re mocking us,’ she commented.
‘People like you who abuse [that relationship] are slowly but surely eroding the affection that once existed between Caymanians and Jamaicans.’
Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale