Dave McLaughlin’s football coach gave him a glowing reference, but it couldn’t save the young man from a four-month prison sentence.
McLaughlin received the sentence last month after pleading guilty to stealing $2,000 from a customer of the bank where he worked as a teller. The theft occurred in August 2008, when McLaughlin was still 17 (Caymanian Compass, 3 March).
Appealing the sentence in the Grand Court last Friday, Defence Attorney John Furniss agreed the theft was a breach of trust. The Court of Appeal insists on custodial sentence in such cases unless there are exceptional circumstances.
Youth is not an exceptional circumstance.
‘But a short sharp shock for someone his age does satisfy as a deterrent,’ Mr. Furniss argued. ‘It confirms the message sent out by the court that there has to be a sentence of imprisonment.’
The attorney said McLaughlin had told him he did not in any way ever want to repeat the experience of the month he has already spent in jail.
‘The law frowns on theft, especially from financial institutions in these islands. One month is sufficient to reinforce the idea that, despite age, we are not prepared to accept dishonesty in financial institutions.’
Mr. Furniss revealed facts that had not been made public in the Summary Court hearing. He said McLaughlin had applied to the bank for a loan but was denied because he was still on probation.
‘Very stupidly he did take the money. He was confronted and terminated. He repaid the money the very same day.’
Now his whole future has bee affected; he will have to disclose his conviction if he applies for any job in the financial sector, Mr. Furniss said.
He handed up a letter from Mr. Greg Ebanks, the technical director of Elite Sports Club. Mr. Ebanks, who was in court, spoke of McLaughlin’s leadership skills and assistance with younger players. He said McLaughlin’s talent, dedication and hard work had contributed to the team’s recent championship.
Crown Counsel Nicole Petit suggested that the only relevant point was whether the sentence was manifestly excessive or wrong in principle. ‘We would be setting a dangerous precedent if we set a threshold for breach of trust too low,’ she pointed out.
Much had been made of McLaughlin’s age, Ms Petit noted. But he was old enough to sign a contract of employment and agree to its terms. That contract would have dealt extensively with how one deals with money belonging to clients.
Justice Charles Quin called this a sad case in which McLaughlin had acted foolishly and let down his colleagues and the bank that hired him.
He said this kind of theft attacks the economy and four months could not be described as excessive.
‘Four months may seem like a very long time and you don’t want to hear any more lectures,’ the Judge told McLaughlin.
‘You’re bright and healthy … I can’t alter your sentence, but you have a lot going for you. Get back on the team, put this behind you. You still have a good future.’
He said McLaughlin had admitted his offence and would serve his sentence. ‘People in time will forget about it,’ the judge said.