Burns Adrian Bodden, 42, was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment after admitting that he took 60 conch and 16 lobster with an unlicensed speargun from a replenishment zone earlier this year.
No marine life may be taken from a replenishment zone. Where it may be taken, the limit is five conch and three lobster per person per day.
Before passing sentence on Wednesday, Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale had requested a social inquiry report because Bodden was known to the court for drug consumption and more than one previous set of marine conservation offences.
The magistrate quoted from the report what Bodden had told the probation officer: he wanted the lobster to get some money to have food, pay rent and consume drugs; he preferred to go diving rather than rob and take people’s things. ‘If I have to, I will do it again,’ he said.
Defence Attorney John Furniss advised the court that Bodden had received a prison sentence for marine offences in the past. He said Bodden was sober for a considerable period last year both in and out of prison. After he was released he had a relapse.
Bodden blamed his difficulties with getting jobs. The magistrate said his addiction prevented him from holding a job. He had been given several opportunities for treatment, but he didn’t want to be in the Drug Rehabilitation Court and he didn’t want to go to the Caribbean Haven residential programme.
In a recent interview, he thought Caribbean Haven would benefit him. The magistrate said he had not yet made a total commitment to treatment.
She told Bodden he was plundering marine life and stealing Caymanians’ heritage. The law was meant to protect conch and lobster so that children 20 years from now could enjoy them. ‘Who are you that you should take for yourself what is protected, to indulge a drug addiction that does not serve you or the community?’ she asked.
She said she had first seen Bodden in court in 1998 and from then he had been unrepentant.
She inquired what sentences the Marine Conservation Law provides. A marine parks officer said the maximum fine was $500,000 and the maximum term of imprisonment was 12 months.
Mr. Furniss pointed out that Bodden’s guilty pleas deserved discount. He also noted that all seven charges arose from the same incident, so if the court handed down separate sentences they should all run at the same time.
‘I intend to test the limits of the law today,’ the magistrate replied, telling Mr. Furniss he could appeal to the Grand Court, which supervises the Summary Courts.
Bodden did plead guilty but he had a long record of offences and had asserted he would do it again. He needed to stop and the court needed to give him a sentence that would encourage him to change his life style. She wondered if he was choosing to breach the Marine Conservation Law because the sentence was less than for burglary.
The magistrate noted that three of the charges related to a speargun. Bodden could have taken the conch and lobster without the speargun, she reasoned. She therefore sentenced him to nine months imprisonment for taking the excess marine life and taking it from a replenishment zone. For having the speargun and using it, she imposed another nine-month term and made it consecutive.
Finally, she gave Bodden another 30 days for failing to come to court in August, although Mr. Furniss urged her to make that sentence concurrent. He was successful in persuading her to give Bodden credit for time in custody.
The offences occurred on 25 January in South Sound, in the vicinity of the Rugby Club around 5pm. A marine parks officer on regular patrol observed suspicious behaviour in the water. When Bodden came ashore with a hookstick and large net bag, the officer spoke to him and the offences were admitted.