After a jury found him guilty of aggravated burglary and three other charges, Yoandy Swaby-Ebanks was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years imprisonment.
The jury accepted that Yoandy, now 23, entered a West Bay home as a trespasser with intent to steal or rob and at the time had with him a shotgun. The incident occurred in December 2002.
Yoandy had been accompanied by his friend Kris Jefferson, who was killed that night.
In passing sentence, Mr. Justice Roy Anderson said he had to balance the rehabilitation of the offender and the concerns of society.
His opinion was that the court had to take into account that there is within the Cayman Islands a great and growing concern about increasing criminal behaviour.
It was no exaggeration to say that society is ‘almost on the verge of panicking’ because of the recent number of serious offences, particularly those involving firearms, the judge commented.
He also considered what sentences local courts have passed in recent years and Yoandy’s personal record. On two occasions the defendant had been given the benefit of suspended sentences. ‘I would have thought they would have provided a salutary lesson,’ he said, but Yoandy appeared not to have learned it.
The judge noted that when a convicted person finishes one-third of his sentence he may be eligible for parole, depending on his behaviour.
Given all these considerations, and reflecting society’s disapproval of the offences, he passed concurrent sentences of 15 years for the aggravated burglary, 12 for possession of a firearm without a licence, 12 for having the firearm with intent to steal or rob, and 15 for possession of a firearm whilst trespassing.
With good behaviour, Yoandy could become eligible for parole before he is 30, Mr. Justice Anderson pointed out. Whether he makes parole will depend on how he conducts himself over the next few years. He could come out of prison at a young enough age to make a contribution to society.
The case for the Prosecution was conducted by Crown Counsel Toyin Salako. As she noted in her opening to the jury, Yoandy and Kris could never have predicted the outcome of their decision to go Todd Powery’s house in the early hours of 29 December 2002.
The gun belonged to Yoandy’s girlfriend’s father and it was licensed. Yoandy admitted taking it from the house to show to Kris, then handing it over to Kris.
The defendant said they went to Todd’s yard to recover some ganja from nearby bush. They had the shotgun in case anyone disturbed them.
When they did not find any ganja, Kris decided to enter the house to retrieve his gold chain. The door was locked. Yoandy said Kris had the gun, so he went through a window and opened the door for Kris.
Shortly after they went inside, Yoandy said, he realised that Kris had got into a fight with one of the occupants of the house. Yoandy himself got into a fight soon after. He had little recollection of what happened because he suffered injuries to his head and face.
Ms Salako told the jury at the start of the trial that Kris had met his death that night at the hands of one of the occupants.
[That man – not Mr. Powery — was charged with murder, but acquitted on the basis of self-defence. The court found insufficient evidence to contradict the assertion that the occupants honestly apprehended their lives were in danger (Caymanian Compass, 7 November 2003).
Mr. Powery was fatally shot earlier this year (Compass, 10 March).]
In his instructions to the jurors, Mr. Justice Anderson said they had to decide if Kris and Yoandy had a common design and whether there was a joint trespass and burglary with them having the firearm between them, although Kris may have had physical possession.
He pointed out that they could accept parts of what Yoandy said and reject others. But even if they disbelieved everything he said, they would still have to acquit if the Crown did not satisfy them of Yoandy’s guilt.
Having a weapon at the time of committing a burglary makes the offence aggravated burglary, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Yoandy was represented by Alastair Malcolm QC, instructed by Attorney Clyde Allen. Mr. Malcolm had submitted that Yoandy was not guilty of burglary because he only entered to get Kris’ chain, which would not be stealing.
In mitigation, he reminded the court that the shotgun was not loaded.