Ex-officer Hanna gets 15 months

Former police officer Richard Hanna was sentenced on Friday to an immediate term of 15 months imprisonment for theft.

Hanna, 30, was convicted after a jury trial last month. Chief Justice Anthony Smellie had allowed bail while a social inquiry report was prepared.

Hanna, a Canadian who joined the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service in August 2005, was the community officer in North Side during the first half of 2006. 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 he told the court that he was holding one set of donations because he had told people the money would be for books, but he then learned the school wanted to buy playground equipment. He said a second sum had been raised for a class trip but it did not get spent and he was holding it for the next year’s class trip.

Hanna had received both cash and cheques, in US and CI currency.

On Friday, Defence Attorney Ailsa Williamson said the money involved in the 14 counts of theft totalled CI$6,335.

She emphasised that Hanna had turned over to police $7,800 before his trial.

She said this included a sum that was not the subject of a charge. Then Hanna had rounded the figure upwards because he did not want the school children to lose the benefit of any interest.

Crown Counsel Kirsty-Ann Gunn opened the hearing with comments on sentencing principles.

She described Hanna’s offences as a breach of trust by a serving police officer. She quoted a 2002 case involving a police officer and a 2006 case in which the Court of Appeal said the sentence should be one of imprisonment for breach of trust unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Ms Williamson called Hanna’s case unusual and with strong mitigating features. She pointed to his previous good character, loss of reputation and the fact that it would be impossible for him to obtain many types of employment.

Another feature she relied on was the lengthy police investigation into the matter. It commenced in August 2006, but Hanna was not arrested until June 2007 and his contract expired at the end of July 2007.

He had been required to remain in Cayman. He had applied for a work permit, but that was not granted pending the outcome of the trial, so he had to stay here not working and not able to support his wife and two children.

There had been two deaths in the family in Canada, but he could not travel to be with relatives at those difficult times, she said.

Ms Williamson said Hanna felt a deep sense of remorse for the mistakes he had made. He feared that people in the community would not support the students any more. He thought he should have contacted the people who had donated money – he wanted to, but didn’t want it to be taken the wrong way.

She urged the court to consider a sentence of community service. Hanna is still highly regarded by the people of North Side, the attorney said. Several residents would have liked to employ him if he were in a position to take up employment.

The Chief Justice said none of the circumstances mentioned by Ms Williamson was exceptional.

He said the police investigation could have been conducted with more urgency, but it had been completed and charges brought within a year. He found nothing negatively exceptional about the process.

The Chief Justice underscored his acceptance of sentencing principles and quoted what Justice Dale Sanderson said five years ago. It is important that the many honest police officers who do not succumb to temptation are aware that their integrity and trustworthiness are recognised and appreciated. The public must be assured that dishonesty and breaches of trust will bear serious consequences.

He described Hanna as a dynamic young man who had shown great promise and left an indelibly favourable impression in his short time in North Side.