Alcohol fuelled fast-food incident

Jumping over the counter of a fast-food restaurant with a knife in his hand was behaviour fuelled by alcohol, Defence Attorney John Furniss said in Grand Court last week.

He was speaking on behalf of James Christopher Forsythe, 38, who faced a charge of robbery after an incident at the North Church Street Burger King on the night of 20 June. The defendant pleaded guilty to threatening violence at night and the Crown accepted the plea.

After hearing that Forsythe had consumed 24 beers before the incident, Justice Lennox Campbell said it would be better for Forsythe and the community if the abuse of alcohol were dealt with.

Crown Counsel Kirsty-Ann Gunn indicated that the law as it stands does not allow the court to sentence someone to probation after a term of imprisonment is served for the same offence.

Taking into account the four months Forsythe had been in custody, the judge imposed a term of a further three months. He then suspended that sentence in order to put Forsythe on probation. One condition is that he must follow his probation officer’s directions for attending counselling and Alcoholics Anonymous.

Mr. Furniss told the court that his client had been guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol in 2004, but had no criminal convictions of any kind. DUI, he explained to the visiting judge, is considered a traffic offence: ‘They’re going to change that, I understand.’

Mrs. Gunn summarised events that led to the charges before the court. She explained that the restaurant closed dine-in service at 11pm, but the drive-through service continues until midnight. On Friday, 20 June, four members of staff were on duty, all female.

At 10.45pm, Forsythe entered and approached the cashier. He placed an order for food, which she repeated to confirm. He seemed to indicate the order was wrong and an exchange took place. She eventually cancelled the order, after repeatedly trying to clarify what he wanted.

The cashier noted he smelled of alcohol. At one point he placed $25 on the counter. Eventually the supervisor intervened and tried to speak to Forsythe. He continued to be difficult and she asked him to leave. He used profanity, but left.

Staff went about their business and the cashier had her back to the counter when Forsythe entered again. He ran toward the counter and jumped over, holding a knife with an eight-inch blade. The supervisor shouted ‘Watch out!’ and all four women ran to the back of the establishment, where they called 911.

They observed Forsythe help himself to two burgers and an apple pie. He then jumped back over the counter and left.

A police officer on duty in the vicinity saw Forsythe riding a bicycle. Due to the description given to 911, he spoke to Forsythe and confirmed he had gone to Burger King for food. The arrest was made and Forsythe was placed on an identification parade and identified.

He was interviewed two days later, when he said he had no recollection of Friday night.

Justice Campbell asked about the knife. Mr. Furniss said Forsythe had bought it that day for his work in construction. It was not noticed whether he had it during his first visit.

The judge then asked about the robbery charge, noting that Forsythe did take goods from the premises. Mrs. Gunn said there was some question as to whether Forsythe had left the $25 at the store.

In passing sentence the judge considered Forsythe’s age and lack of previous criminal convictions. He said it was quite clear the defendant had a serious problem. Forsythe’s actions at Burge King had exposed the four young women to very great risk and put them in fear. The fact that it happened at night was even more frightening.

The judge said the period of suspension would run from that day, so if Forsythe breaches probation he will serve the three months.

Later, the judge asked if there is any responsibility on bartenders not to serve persons who are clearly drunk. Senior Crown Counsel Trevor Ward, who was present for a different case, said he would look into the matter.