Burglaries were for food, clothes

Case illustrates need for halfway house

Trying
to find shelter, food and clothing led to two recent burglaries by one man and
also illustrated the need for a hostel or halfway house on the Island.

During
the 30 June sentencing hearing for Tommy Orlando Ebanks, 24, for the two
burglaries and an incident involving assault on a police officer, Chief Magistrate
Margaret Ramsay-Hale said she would have liked to have been able to sentence
Mr. Ebanks to a halfway house or bail hostel, or someplace with proper
supervision, so that he could work during the day and return at night for a
meal, a shower and a bed. The Red Cross would always help out with clothing,
she suggested.

With
no such facility available, he was sentenced to a term of four years’ imprisonment.

Defence
Attorney John Furniss said Mr. Ebanks’ offences, as in the past, had involved
entering a premises for shelter or for stealing food and clothing.

Mr.
Ebanks, who has 41 previous convictions, was charged most recently for a
burglary in November, when he entered St. George’s Anglican Church Preschool,
and one in January, when he entered a residence off Harquail Drive.

At
the preschool, he ate popcorn and a cup of soup and drank some fruit punch.
Fingerprints were found that matched his, and he admitted the offence.

At
the residence, he stole a pair of jeans, two shirts, three pairs of socks and a
purse, with a total value of $75. The magistrate said it was not the value of
the goods taken, but the fact of the burglary itself that was serious. Three
people were home at the time — an elderly woman who was ill, an elderly man
and a helper.

Judges
and attorneys would say the burglary was at the lower end of the scale of
seriousness, the magistrate said, but at the same time, she had to take into
account the impact of the offence on the victims.

In
regard to the preschool burglary, she said, “I suppose you could argue that the
church raises funds for those who cannot help themselves. At the same time, the
church does not expect to be broken into.”

Mr.
Furniss noted that there are other offenders like Mr. Ebanks who have no fixed
residence and come back to court on a nuisance basis.

“Some
funds should be set aside for the purpose of setting up a halfway house,” he
suggested.

Details
of Mr. Ebanks’ background were aired to highlight the extent of his problems
and the court’s dilemma. The magistrate said Mr. Ebanks had been using drugs
since age 10. He had been at Caribbean Haven (residential treatment facility
for addicts), but walked out after two weeks because he didn’t want to clean
the floor as directed. There were rules at Caribbean Haven just as there are
rules in any normal household, the magistrate pointed out, adding, “Tommy has
not lived in a normal household for the last 10 years.” She said he was not
suitable for a community service order.

“I
have a lack of options caused by Tommy himself,” the magistrate said. “Whatever
we say about his cognitive abilities, he understands he has put himself in this
position. We had tried to avoid his getting institutionalised.”

If
a halfway house ever gets approved, she added, officers of the Department of
Community Rehabilitation could recommend Mr. Ebanks’ transfer. Meanwhile, the
forensic psychologists at the prison could help him prepare for re-entry into
the community.

For
the residential burglary, she imposed a term of three years. For the preschool
burglary, she added six months. For a separate incident of escaping lawful
custody and assaulting the officer, Mr. Ebanks received an additional six
months.

0
0

NO COMMENTS