Community service for employee theft

Chief Justice Anthony Smellie imposed a sentence of 200 hours community service after hearing details of workplace theft committed three years ago.

Deviken Tibbetts, 37, pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges including three counts of false accounting. He has since repaid $3,200 of the total $7,304.25 stolen.

Conditions of his community service order include paying back a total of $8,500, to reflect interest the rightful owner could have earned; submitting to random drug tests and staying in steady employment.

Crown Counsel George Keightley explained that Tibbetts worked at Caribbean Club as reservations supervisor, among other things. Tourists staying in condominiums there would settle their account more often than not with Tibbetts.

The defendant stole sums of money and disguised the thefts by setting up fictitious accounts. These became apparent when the company accountant checked the books.

The thefts took place between 5 January and 2 December 2003.

Mr. Keightley pointed out that Tibbetts was in a position of trust at the time of the offences.

He referred to the frequently used Barrick guidelines from the 1980s, which cited prison sentences of 18 months or less for offences involving 10,000 or less. Those guidelines were updated in 1998, partly because of inflation, so that the 18-month mark would relate to case in which the amount stolen was less than �17,500.

Defence Attorney James Austin-Smith said he was specifically instructed not to make excuses on behalf of Tibbetts. The defendant had been hounded because of a series of debts.

Since the offences in 2003 he had remained out of trouble. He was remorseful and had asked forgiveness of his former employer, but more importantly he had backed that up with actions by paying back what he stole, Mr. Austin-Smith said.

Tibbetts’ current employer had tested him with a large quantity of cash and he had not been found wanting. The employer had no reservation in writing a reference letter, the attorney said.

The guilty plea plus the repayment added up to significant mitigation, he submitted. Tibbetts has adjusted his lifestyle and has become involved in community service. He had brought another $1,600 to court, so that well over half of what he took would now be repaid.

Mr. Austin-Smith cited a 2002 court case in the UK that was an appeal of sentence in an economic crime involving breach of trust.

The court in that matter said prison was not necessarily the only form of punishment. Community based punishment and curfew can be better.

Overcrowding in UK prisons was mentioned as a factor. Mr. Austin-Smith said the Chief Justice would be aware that in Cayman there is also a problem with prison overcrowding and people being housed in police stations.

The UK case involved theft of �11,120. The appeal court reduced a sentence of 12 months to four months.

Mr. Austin-Smith summarised that court’s position as — imprisonment only when necessary and as short as necessary.

The Chief Justice said he would put his full reasons for sentence in writing. But what he found most compelling was Tibbetts’ likelihood for rehabilitation. He accepted the expression of remorse and the efforts to repay.

The offence was not one that mandated prison in the public interest, he indicated.