Spent conviction legal bid fails

A legal bid to have spent criminal convictions removed from the files judges refer to when passing criminal sentences was rejected in the Grand Court Friday.

Attorney Lee Freeman had appealed the length of his client’s Summary Court convictions on drug and burglary charges. He said the magistrate had been wrong in referring to the man’s spent convictions when she sentenced him to four years prison for burglary and non-commercial supply of cocaine in December 2006.

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, some criminal convictions become spent if the person does not re-offend again within prescribed time periods.

Crown Counsel Elisabeth Lees described Mr. Freeman’s submission as ‘ludicrous’. While spent convictions are not meant to be mentioned for purposes such as insurance and employment applications, it is entirely appropriate for judges to be aware of a person’s full criminal history when passing sentence, she said.

‘Courts have a duty to protect the public and to do so they must be advised of all past offences,’ she said. ‘That doesn’t stop them from saying ‘that’s a very old offence and is not that relevant’, but they have to be advised of spent convictions.’

Rejecting the appeal, Grand Court Justice Alexander Henderson said the court must have available to it as much information about the offender as possible, including past convictions and must be trusted to deal with that information appropriately.

‘To hold otherwise would not only be inconsistent with a previous decision of this court, but would allow sentencing procedures to descend into an illogical and undesirable form,’ he said.

If Mr. Freeman’s submission were to succeed, it would mean a person could be convicted once every five years for drunk driving and be treated as if they were a first offender each time they came back before the courts, the Judge said by way of example.

Mr. Freeman’s client received 30 months in jail for breaking into a West Bay condo in 2006, stealing diving equipment, food and alcohol to feed his cocaine addiction.

Shortly after being arrested and then bailed on that charge, he was arrested for non-commercial supply of cocaine after being caught in a Seven Mile Beach hotel room with drugs and drug paraphernalia. He received 18 months for the supply charge, which related to sharing cocaine with a woman he had taken to the hotel for sex.

The man received a further six years in jail in March 2007 after being convicted of attempted rape and indecent assault for a separate November 2005 incident.

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now