Six months imprisonment was the sentence imposed on a supermarket cashier who admitted her involvement in thefts of cash at her workplace.
‘I think it right that the court offers protection to employers,’ Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale told defendant Yamila E. Watler. The magistrate also ordered payment of $2,282.37 in compensation.
‘The incidence of theft from employers is extraordinarily high,’ she observed earlier. ‘It is a breach of the employer’s trust when you are put in charge of his money and you take it. The man entrusts you with his cash register and pays you for your work. He doesn’t expect you to steal.’
Therefore, she continued, sentences for theft by employees are deterrent. That is, they are meant to deter others from taking money to do a job and then taking money besides.
Watler, now 26, was originally charged with false accounting and forgery along with theft. The offences occurred over a period of two months in 2002. Watler first came to court in 2003.
According to the Crown’s summary of facts, the defendant would retain information from a credit/debit card transaction and then manually input that information and create a second receipt and sign it.
The magistrate pointed out that forging signatures on false transactions was ‘far more sophisticated than just dipping your hand into the till.’
The offences came to light when a customer received his monthly statement and saw two transactions recorded at that store. He knew he had used his card for only one and filed a complaint.
Mitigation. Defence Attorney John Furniss told the court that Watler always maintained that her supervisor had been involved in the offences. He said the supervisor was spoken to by the company and was dismissed but never charged. Watler herself never received any of the sums taken, he indicated.
The magistrate said it made no sense for Watler to commit an offence to benefit a third party. If the supervisor was involving her in something illegal, Watler should have gone straight to the boss, she pointed out.
Mr. Furniss said Watler did what the supervisor said because she had not been on the island very long and this was her first job. She was frightened.
The attorney suggested that the sentence could be compensation payment and a term of imprisonment suspended. He noted the relatively small amount of the theft.
The sentencing guidelines for theft from an employer refer to both the taking of a large sum or ‘persistent taking of small amounts’. They would merit the same sentences, the magistrate pointed out.
One thing she had to gauge in sentencing was the sincerity of the defendant. She had entered nine guilty pleas, but in her social inquiry report she was admitting only three.
Mr. Furniss replied that the three offences admitted by Watler were confirmed by a handwriting expert. The expert was somewhat equivocal about a number of the others.
But the defendant, whether she liked it or not, had to accept that her till was always the one that was used.
The magistrate said nine months was the right sentence, along with compensation.
Mr. Furniss asked her to consider the guilty pleas, the compensation order and the length of time Watler had been coming to court for this matter. He cited two Grand Court sentences for similar offences. In one case, he said, the sentence was suspended.
The magistrate settled on a term of six months.