Crack led to burglary spree

Switching from cocaine powder to crack increased a user’s level of addiction, which led to an increased need for funds, which led to 25 burglaries in one month.

Defence Attorney John Furniss gave that background when he spoke on behalf of Joie Ladner Ebanks in Grand Court last Friday.

Justice Alexander Henderson sentenced Ebanks to six years imprisonment.

In January, the defendant pleaded guilty to ten counts of burglary. He also admitted committing 15 others and asked the court to take them into account when passing sentence.

All of the offences took place in May 2006 and almost all of them were in West Bay.

Crown Counsel Tanya Lobban said police received a report on 30 May that a residence had been broken into and several items stolen, including a cell phone. Police visited the scene, began their investigation and arrested Ebanks the following day.

On his arrest he was very cooperative and gave information about the other burglaries, Ms Lobban said.

Approximately 40 per cent of the items stolen were recovered. The estimated value of property stolen in the ten burglaries before the court was CI$11,658. A conservative estimate of total value in the other 15 burglaries was CI$3,878 and 100 pounds sterling.

Ms Lobban said Ebanks had previous convictions but most were for possession and consumption of ganja. Mr. Justice Henderson said that, for sentencing purposes, this was the first time Ebanks was convicted for burglary.

Mr. Furniss told the court that Ebanks received a two-year sentence in 2002 for cultivation of ganja. When he was released, there was a short period before he started working. That was when he began using cocaine powder two or three times per week.

Then someone who subsequently became his supplier told him there was something better that would give him a new high. ‘He foolishly started using crack cocaine,’ Mr. Furniss said.

The judge referred to the case file and said Ebanks had been on probation to go to drug counselling. ‘It’s depressing that it did not have a better effect than it did,’ he commented.

Mr. Furniss pointed out that cocaine was not interfering with Ebanks’ life at that point in March 2006. He was working as a boat captain and when business became slow he was laid off. When business started up again, there was a cold front. Ebanks was shore-bound for two weeks or so and that was when he started using crack.

By May 2006 he was someone who had raised the level of his addiction and the necessity for funds rose accordingly, Mr. Furniss said. He added that Ebanks did not rely on an excuse of drugs for his offences.

The judge replied that drugs don’t make a person commit offences, but they do give the person a pressing need for money.

Mr. Furniss emphasised Ebanks’ cooperation. He not only admitted the offences but also took officers to various sites and helped recover items. While in prison, he has done what he can to overcome the cocaine habit and hopes to go to Caribbean Haven Residential Treatment Centre prior to his release.

In passing sentence, the judge said this was yet another case of a life ruined by cocaine.

Now 27, Ebanks became involved in consumption of ganja and cocaine some years ago. For a period of time, as is often the case, he felt he could handle the drug and lead a productive life. Eventually and inevitably, the drug got the better of him and drove him to commit burglaries.

Ebanks entered the residences of people in West Bay; in some cases people were home at the time. When apprehended he confessed and provided details, which the judge took as a sign of genuine remorse.

The guilty pleas were a significant factor in the defendant’s favour. An aggravating factor was that most of the burglaries were residential.

The judge said he also took into account the fact that burglary has become an endemic epidemic problem in the past two years.

Having regard to all the circumstances, he arrived at a global sentence of nine years. Giving a substantial discount of three years for the guilty pleas, he arrived at the sentence of six years.