Nobody expects a well-liked and highly-regarded employee to steal, Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale said before sentencing Myrna Nadean Ebanks to 12 months imprisonment.
Ebanks, 38, pleaded guilty to theft of $10,832.11 from Fidelity Bank between 15 June and 8 August 2008.
Defence Attorney Clyde Allen went into detail about Ebanks’ home life, but summarised it all by saying she took the money to pay bills and feed her children. He noted that she had just been promoted at the bank, prompting the magistrate to make the above remark.
The thefts were accomplished by diverting bank funds to a friend’s dormant account, Crown Counsel Alister Cumming said when the matter first came to court. The friend thought the deposits into her account were genuine mistakes and took actions that enabled Ebanks to receive the cash.
In August, however, the friend became suspicious and checked with the bank directly.
The magistrate said the scheme used by Ebanks was sophisticated. ‘I do not think the theft would have been discovered if the account holder had not notified the bank,’ she said. It was Ebanks’ position in the bank that had allowed her to carry out the theft.
The question was what level of sentence was appropriate. Since this was a breach of trust offence, custody was inevitable unless there were exceptional circumstances.
Those circumstances might include the strain of excessive responsibility, illness or a long delay before the matter was dealt with, the magistrate said.
‘Everybody has a story. All children suffer when their mother is removed from the home,’ she noted. Later she pointed out that Ebanks was the one who had put her children at risk.
There were state agencies Ebanks could have got help from for family problems, the magistrate suggested. ‘Self-help by stealing is not the kind of behaviour the court condones.’
Mr. Allen cited a Grand Court case in which the sentence was six months. The magistrate said she had given the matter much anxious consideration, but Mr. Allen was free to appeal to the Grand Court.