Hanna guilty of theft

A Grand Court jury found former police officer Richard Martin Hanna guilty on Friday on 14 counts of theft of money.

Chief Justice Anthony Smellie agreed to a request that Hanna’s bail be continued until 4 January.

Defence Attorney Ailsa Williamson asked for that date in order to obtain a social inquiry report before sentencing. She said Hanna had already surrendered his passport and had sureties in place.

The judge required Hanna to report to the Bodden Town Police Station twice per week until the sentencing date.

It is unknown exactly what sentence Hanna faces. Research will most likely be done to find sentencing precedents, since no similar cases in Cayman come immediately to mind. Locally, in recent memory, two police officers have received prison sentences – one for six months, one for 18 months – but the circumstances of their offences were different.

In this case, the thefts occurred during the first half of 2006, when Hanna was the police community officer in North Side. He received cash or cheques from district residents for the North Side Primary School or for the benefit of the school’s Year Six students.

During his trial, Hanna did not dispute that the money did not belong to him. He told the court he was holding $3,228.94 for books for the school. He said he did not turn the money over because he had learned that the school wanted to buy playground equipment. He was upset, he said, because he had told people the money was for books.

A second portion, approximately $4,937, had been given to him for an educational trip to Canada by the Year Six students. Hanna said he had planned to spend it for extra activities, which did not take place, so he was holding it for the next year’s class trip.

Challenged by Crown Counsel Nicola Moore, he said he did not remember if he ever told any of the donors he had not spent the money.

Trial began on 26 November. On 3 December the Chief Justice withdrew from the jury’s consideration 16 counts of obtaining by deception. He said the evidence did not support the allegation that Hanna had any intention to deceive at the time he received the monies. The judge also withdrew two charges of theft because those monies had been accounted for.

The Defence finished calling witnesses on Wednesday afternoon and Ms Moore summed up the case for the Prosecution.

On Thursday morning, the jury foreman sent a note to the judge. The note asked if Hanna would be charged for committing perjury.

The Chief Justice discussed the question with the attorneys and then directed the jurors. He said the note suggested they had already formed a view, but it would be wrong to come to any conclusion until they heard Ms Williamson’s closing speech and his directions.

He said they could not rush to judgment simply because they formed the view that Hanna may have lied about one thing or another. Even if he did lie, it could be for an innocent reason.

Hanna had told police investigators and the court that he kept records of all the money given to him and he had money set aside to cover the amounts he had not turned over to anyone. Later he explained that he had over $40,000 with the Police Credit Union in Canada. It is a registered plan related to retirement, but he could get money out of it. That was the money he regarded as available to him.

Ms Moore questioned him about money he had turned over to police in Cayman in July 2007. He said he had money in Canada sent down – money his parents were holding for him.

In his directions to jurors, the Chief Justice said it was a matter for them as to whether they accepted Hanna’s explanation – he did not want to get his parents involved and so did not initially say the money came from them.

The Chief Justice also suggested that jurors look at the charges in two groups: money Hanna received when the students were holding a walkathon in March to raise funds for the library and playground equipment; money received for the class trip to Toronto in June.

The evidence was different for each count, so the verdicts need not be the same. Jurors had to be satisfied Hanna dishonestly intended to deprive the school or the school children of the particular sum of money. If they were not sure, they had to find him not guilty.

The Crown had to prove guilt, the Chief Justice reminded jurors. Hanna did not have to prove his innocence. The fact he had given evidence did not mean he had assumed any burden of proof.