Prison officer wins appeal

Suspended prison education officer Adam McIntyre won his appeal against conviction for theft.

He had been found guilty in Grand Court of stealing money given to him for the benefit of eight inmates, between 1999 and 2005. Amounts involved totaled less than $3,200.

His sentence was 12 months imprisonment, but he was bailed pending appeal.

The Court of Appeal heard arguments earlier this year and President Sir John Chadwick handed down the decision on Friday.

The allegations against him arose from his handling of money paid by or on behalf of inmates for correspondence courses. As summarized in the judgment, he was responsible for the transmission of payments to the educational institution.

The case for the Crown at trial was that instead of paying the monies to the course provider, he paid them into his credit card account which he used for his own purpose. In his interview with authorities, he said he did pay the monies into his Visa account and paid the course provider by installments.

The Crown’s case was that even if this were true, he committed the offence of theft as soon as he paid the monies into his account. Further, he was accused of holding back payments or not making them at all.

Mr. McIntyre chose to be tried in Grand Court by judge alone and Justice Priya Levers heard the matter in April 2008.

About half of the Court of Appeal’s judgment dealt with issues that can arise from trial by a judge sitting without a jury.

In this case, the trial judge failed to give any reasons why a guilty verdict was returned on five of the charges.

‘In my view, a generalized verdict of guilty, especially in a trial by a judge alone, would be far from satisfactory,’ said Justice Abdullah Conteh, writer of the judgment.

He pointed out that the ingredients of theft are 1) dishonest appropriation; 2) of property belonging to another; 3) with the intention of permanently depriving that other person of property.

But nowhere in the trial judge’s reasons for her judgment was there any analysis of the ingredients of the charge, apart from dishonesty.

Noting that Mr. McIntyre gave evidence in his own defence, the Court of Appeal said that the trial judge, having rejected his evidence, proceeded to think that that was the end of the matter. But rejecting his evidence ‘does not bring to an end the inquiry into guilt or innocence in a criminal trial,’ Justice Conteh wrote.

‘Before convicting, a court must always be satisfied not only that the evidence of the accused or that given on his behalf is not true, but also and perhaps more importantly, that every element of the offence charged has been established by evidence that is itself truthful and reliable beyond reasonable doubt.’

He also found that the trial judge, apart from a fleeting reference, ‘made no conscious, clear and particular reference to the burden and standard of proof of guilt which always rest in a criminal trial on the prosecution.’

Justice Conteh summarised Mr. McIntyre’s practice of paying monies into his own account and then using his credit card to defray the costs of inmates’ courses. He found it difficult to conclude from this that what was done was dishonest ‘according to the ordinary standards of reasonable and honest people’.

Sir John and Justice Ian Forte, who also heard the appeal agreed. Sir John said of the trial judge, ‘Had she directed a jury in the terms in which she sought to support her conclusions as a fact finder, there can be no doubt at all, to my mind, that guilty verdicts could not stand.’

The appeal was argued on Mr. McIntyre’s behalf by Howard Hamilton QC, instructed by Attorney Margeta Facey-Clarke. Crown Counsel John Masters responded.

The Caymanian Compass covered the trial extensively, from 31 March to 17 April 2008.