Man found not guilty of damaging wheel clamp

Jury returns unanimous verdict

A
Grand Court jury on Friday found Levon Rothwell Bodden not guilty of wilfully
damaging a wheel clamp that had been attached to his car.

He
was accused of damaging the clamp, valued at $142, after it had been attached
to the car he parked in the Queen’s Court parking lot on the night of Friday,
26 June, 2009, before he went to O Bar.

Mr.
Bodden, who did not have an attorney, accepted that he had damaged the clamp by
driving about 100 feet with it on his front wheel. However, he said he did not
do so intentionally.

According
to the Penal Code, a person who, without lawful excuse, damages property
belonging to another, intending to damage it or being reckless as to whether it
would be damaged is guilty of an offence. Mr. Bodden was charged with wilfully
damaging the clamp, so the element of recklessness was not part of the Crown’s
case. 

When
Mr. Bodden took the stand, he said he never saw the clamp because that side of
his car was near shrubbery. Further, he asserted, there was no sticker on his
windscreen to indicate the vehicle had been clamped, and he never saw a sign on
the building that warned of clamping.

Questioned
by Justice Alexander Henderson and Crown Counsel Alistair Cumming, Mr. Bodden
said his vehicle was a 1993 model and gave him trouble; he thought something
was wrong with the engine when the car started bobbing and shaking and making
noise. He didn’t think of a wheel clamp because “usually a clamp immobilises
completely.” He maintained he kept driving to get out of the way of other
vehicles and because he was embarrassed.

Christopher
Woolery of Securicor Security Service, a prosecution witness, confirmed that he
had clamped the wheel because the car was in a no parking area marked by a
yellow line along the kerb.

He
explained that the clamp is opened with a key, placed on both sides of the wheel
rim and then closed together. “It will act like a stop. [The car] can move with
an extra rev, but the vehicle won’t be allowed to move as freely as without the
clamp.”

Mr.
Woolery said he did put a sticker where the driver could see it. The sticker explained
that the vehicle was clamped, why, and what contact should be made for removal.

Questioned
by Mr. Bodden, the security guard said his company started clamping vehicles at
Queen’s Court in early 2009 or late 2008. He agreed that people frequently parked
in no parking areas, and he also agreed that the building was large. Asked how
many signs were on the building to warn about clamping, Mr. Woolery said there
was one.

The
Crown had photos of the vehicle taken that night, and Mr. Bodden asked the witness
and the jury to look at them. He asked where the sticker had been placed. Mr.
Woolery replied, “I don’t know what you did with it when you took it off.”

Mr.
Woolery was on the compound when Mr. Bodden was attempting to leave, around
2.45am Saturday. The two men agreed they had a discussion but did not agree
about what was said. The guard called police.

Because
the defendant was not represented, Mr. Cumming did not make a closing speech to
the jury. Mr. Bodden did speak briefly. He said if a person knew there was a
clamp, no one in his right mind would drive off and damage his car. He was
accustomed to seeing big clamps.

Justice
Henderson, in his directions to the jury, said there was no dispute that Mr.
Bodden drove the car away with the clamp still attached to the wheel and that
he damaged the clamp.

“The
sole issue for your decision is whether Mr. Bodden caused that damage
intentionally or wilfully. They mean the same thing in this context… If you
are not sure of that, you must find him not guilty.”

Four
days after his acquittal, Mr. Bodden returned to Summary Court to answer other
charges arising from the same incident. They included using a vehicle without a
certificate of road-worthiness and failing to provide a specimen of breath. A
trial was set for 30 August in the Summary Court.

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