Looting sentence was lenient

Two and a half years was a lenient sentence for looting after Hurricane Ivan, Justice Priya Levers said after hearing an appeal in Grand Court on Friday.

‘To tell you the truth, I would have given you more,’ she told Willie Elvis McLean.

McLean, 48, received the sentence in Summary Court after pleading guilty to a burglary at the Atlantic Department Store on North Church Street in November 2004.

The store had been damaged during Hurricane Ivan in September that year.

McLean first wanted to appeal his conviction on the basis that he had misunderstood the charge. ‘I plead guilty to looting and trespassing,’ he said.

‘Looting is very bad. You should have got longer,’ the judge told him. ‘You took from your fellow man at a time like that – especially in Cayman, where we help each other.’

McLean, who represented himself, replied that things had been destroyed all over and other defendants had been in front of the magistrate for the same thing.

Crown Counsel Trevor Ward said people were more vulnerable after a hurricane.

The judge agreed and gave McLean an example. She said if she had lost her watch in the storm and he had returned it, she would be forever grateful. But if he kept it and it had sentimental value to her, she would be heart-broken.

According to a summary of facts presented at the time of McLean’s sentencing, he rode to the store on bicycle. He entered the premises by climbing through an opening at the back of the store caused by the removal of an air conditioning unit. He then removed a quantity of clothing and toys.

Questioned by police the very next day, he admitted going through a hole in the wall.

Later, at the time of entering his plea, McLean did have the benefit of legal advice, Mr. Ward said.

The Penal Code states that whoever enters a building as a trespasser and steals or attempts to steal anything is guilty of the offence of burglary.

McLean had also pleaded guilty in Summary Court to escaping lawful custody in a separate incident. For this he received a further six months, for a total of three years.

The judge did not disturb any part of the sentence. She told McLean to think about what he had done.

‘Next time, don’t touch anything,’ she said.

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