Suspended sentence has meaning

When a man begs for a chance and gets a suspended sentence, he must know the consequence of reoffending, Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale indicated last week.

In the case of Dalton Benjamin Robinson, the consequence was the activation of a six-month sentence plus nine months for new offences – a total of 15 months imprisonment.

Robinson, 30, had received the suspended sentence in April 2003 for possession and consumption of ganja and carrying an offensive weapon. The sentence was suspended for two years.

In October 2004 Robinson was arrested for possession and consumption of ganja and cocaine. He came to court in April this year and pleaded guilty in May.

At the sentencing hearing last week, the magistrate reviewed Robinson’s record and noted that the 2003 sentence had been passed in another court.

At that time, and on a previous occasion, ‘the court gave him a bye,’ she commented.

Referring to the fact that there are three magistrates presiding in Summary Court, Ms Ramsay-Hale observed, ‘My sister does not sit and pass sentence so that I can ignore her.’

When one of the magistrates sits in judgment and passes a suspended sentence and the defendant comes back with similar new offences, the court is obliged to activate that sentence.

The suspension of a prison term had failed to deter Robinson from further offending. He had to serve the term now; otherwise, he would have benefited twice.

Robinson told the court he had three children he took care of. He asked what would happen to them if he were not there to put food in their mouths.

The magistrate told him it was not the court’s intention to make innocent third parties suffer. She said officers from Children and Family Services would intervene.

It was usually said that the drug user hurts no one but himself, unless he breaks into people’s property to support his habit. But Robinson’s situation showed that everything a person does impacts on other people, the magistrate indicated.

There is a drug counsellor at Northward Prison, she told Robinson. ‘Find her and speak to her.’

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