Three months for forged currency

Godfrey A. Brandt and Curtis Joseph Conolly were sentenced on Friday to three months imprisonment for possession of 14 forged US$100 notes.

Brandt, 29, pleaded guilty on 16 May to possession of the notes without lawful authority or excuse, knowing them to be forged.

Conolly, 33, went to trial and a Grand Court jury found him guilty on 27 May.

Justice Charles Quin postponed sentencing for both men after a social inquiry report was requested on behalf of Brandt (Caymanian Compass, 29 May).

On Friday, Justice Quin expressed the view that there is a disturbing escalation in the circulation of forged currency notes, which could strike at the basis of the country’s economy. He said the court had to be mindful of the public interest.

In light of the seriousness of the offence and the authorities cited to him, he imposed the three-month terms.

The two men were never accused of trying to use the forged notes.

.Jurors hearing the case were told by a police officer that Brandt had said he brought the notes from Guyana to play Monopoly.

Police found the notes in Brandt’s car, which was used on several occasions by Conolly.

Conolly said he had seen the notes in the car and Brandt told him they were not real. Conolly also said he picked up the notes on one occasion to show them to a girl to impress her. He acknowledged he did not suggest Brandt take the notes to authorities.

In mitigation on Friday, Attorney Ben Tonner said Brandt’s account of how he came to possess the forged currency was that he took it from a friend because he was concerned the friend might give into the temptation of trying to use the notes. He held onto them for safe-keeping

Mr. Tonner said Brandt did not know possession of forged notes was a crime. He had no intent to use them or deceive anyone. His initial intent was to destroy the notes or take them to the police, but he accepted that he held onto them too long.

The attorney asked for a non-custodial sentence, suggesting community service or a suspended sentence. He said one of the greatest penalties had already been imposed – the loss of one’s good name.

He acknowledged that there might be an immigration issue because Brandt is a Guyanese national who was on contract here with Her Majesty’s Prison Service. The contract expired in 2005; fortunately, Brandt had the support of his family.

Letters of reference included one from his supervisor at the prison, describing Brandt as an outstanding officer until this incident. Mr. Tonner emphasised that the offence was not connected in any way with either man’s service at the prison.

On behalf of Conolly, Attorney Stephen Hall-Jones submitted references and reminded the court of mitigation made in May, including testimony from his employer. He said Conolly’s offence was in many ways a lapse in civic responsibility.

He urged the court to say a custodial sentence was not necessary in this specific case. If however, the judge felt it was appropriate to deprive Conolly of his liberty, a sentence involving house arrest could be imposed. This would allow Conolly to work during the day but otherwise be subject to strict curfew.

Crown Counsel Elisabeth Lees commented on various sentencing authorities, replacing Ms Tricia Hutchinson who prosecuted the case.

The men’s offence of possession occurred in March 2004. After trial in Summary Court, they were found guilty and sentenced to six months imprisonment. The magistrate granted bail pending appeal and a Grand Court judge allowed the appeal to the extent of quashing the convictions.

He left it up to the Crown whether to have a re-trial and when the Crown continued the matter, the men chose to be tried in Grand Court.

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