Teen found not guilty of passing fake $100

When a schoolboy took a $100 note to get it changed at a gas station last November, he did not know the note was counterfeit.

The sales assistant who suspected it only knew after testing the note with a special pen.

The officer called to the station did not know the note was counterfeit until he received confirmation from a senior officer.

These facts were cited by Magistrate Grace Donalds last week when she ruled that a 17-year-old defendant was not guilty of possession of a forged currency note. He was also not guilty of uttering the note – that is, putting it into circulation.

She said she did not find that the Crown had proved to the required standard of proof that the defendant knew the note was counterfeit.

The law states that whoever possesses a forged currency note, knowing it to be forged, is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for 10 years.

The trial was about whether the defendant knew the note was counterfeit.

The student who took the note to the gas station said the defendant asked him to go change it. He had a bicycle and the defendant did not, so he cycled to the station.

The investigating officer gave evidence that he did speak to another officer to confirm that the note was counterfeit.

He also agreed that when the 17-year-old was interviewed there was no attorney or other adult present. He pointed out that the law did not require it.

In the interview, the defendant did give two accounts of how he came into possession of the note. One was that a man had given it to him in exchange for a bicycle. The other was that his brother had given it to him after finding it.

The defendant did not give evidence.

In her ruling the magistrate first summed up the case for the Prosecution. Senior Crown Counsel Andre Mon Desir had said the defendant’s guilty mind had been proved by inference. He had sent the schoolboy to change the note, thereby distancing himself from it.

Mr. Mon Desir had also urged the court to say that the elaborate lies were told through a consciousness of guilt, not for any innocent reason.

The magistrate then referred to arguments put forward by Defence Attorney James Austin-Smith, who accepted that his client had given police two different versions. But, he said, lies alone were not enough to convict.

The magistrate agreed. She said the mere fact the defendant lied was not evidence of guilt. He may have lied to get out of the trouble he apprehended he was in, she said. He was 17 when interviewed in the absence of any adult.

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