Policeman gets 18 months for corruption

A police officer who admitted receiving $500 in exchange for not prosecuting a traffic offender was sentenced on Wednesday to 18 months imprisonment.

Keith Nathaniel Guthrie, 38, was a constable in the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service at the time of the offence – 8 April, 2006. He had been with the force for four years.

Justice Algernon Smith agreed with Solicitor Genera Cheryll Richards that any corrupt act is serious because it tends to undermine public confidence in the police force.

In this case, there was some question as to who made the first approach, but the judge said he would not attach significance to that aspect of the case.

Last week, Guthrie pleaded guilty to corruptly receiving the $500 from a man whom he had stopped for traffic violations. Another charge, of receiving $1,500 from the same man, was left on file.

The driver’s offences included expired insurance, expired licence and expired registration coupon. The coupon and plates were removed from the vehicle and the driver was told he would receive a summons to attend court.

According to the Crown’s case, Guthrie phoned the driver that afternoon and asked his schedule. They agreed to meet at a George Town bar and restaurant. Guthrie told the man he was facing fines of $3,000 and the loss of his licence for two years.

The driver was scared and agreed to pay $1,500. Five days after that sum was handed over, Guthrie phoned the man again and said the ’15’ was for his partner; Guthrie thought there would be something for him.

The man decided to go to police.

The man was given $500 in bills that were first photocopied for identification. Officers also arranged for the man’s conversation with Guthrie to be recorded.

The driver asked how much it would take ‘to end this’. Guthrie asked how much the man was going to give him then. The man said $500 and Guthrie said that was cool.

The handover of the money took place in a supermarket parking lot around 1am. Guthrie was recorded as saying, ‘Yes, man, it’s done.’

After he drove away, he was intercepted by police and the photocopied bills were found in his possession.

The coupon and plates from the driver’s vehicle were recovered during a search of Guthrie’s residence.

A check of phone records showed 14 calls between Guthrie and the driver.

Ms Williamson emphasised that Guthrie fell to be sentenced on one single count of corruption involving $500. He was aware that the offence was a serious breach of trust and he faced a custodial sentence. In fact he had surrendered to custody the day he entered his plea.

Guthrie, a Jamaican national, had lived in Cayman for 10 years. This conviction would make it impossible for him to get a work permit, so he would be forced to leave.

He also suffered from Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. These conditions could be managed, but it would be difficult in prison. His time in would also be difficult because he would have been involved in the arrest of a number of people there.

At Ms Richards’ request, he recommended Guthrie for deportation at the end of his sentence.

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