Magistrate hands down concurrent sentences totalling 12 months
George Frederick Miller, 53, was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment last week after a trial in which he was found guilty of illegally taking marine life and assaulting Department of Environment officers with a hook stick when they challenged him.
The incident, leading to multiple charges against Miller, occurred in South Sound shortly after 1pm on 16 February.
In her verdict, Magistrate Nova Hall summarised the evidence of Chief Conservation Officer Mark Orr, along with Officers Stuart Turpin and James Squire.
Mr. Orr said he saw a snorkeller making repeated dives in the replenishment zone and radioed for assistance. The snorkeller emerged from the water wearing a wet suit and carrying a large net bag with marine life, a hook stick and snorkelling gear.
Mr. Orr recognised Miller and told him to put the bag with the marine life on the ground. He said he could see 30 conch on each side of the bag and he also counted eight lobster.
Mr. Orr told the court that Miller said the officers were crazy if they thought they could get the marine life away from him and he would kill them first.
When Mr. Orr drew his baton and tried to convince Miller to put down the bag and the hook stick, Miller swung the stick at him and Mr. Turpin. The officer described the stick as three feet long, having at one end a stainless steel with a two-to-three inch curve.
The officers backed away from Miller and radioed for assistance. They then followed him as he walked toward South Sound Road.
Miller approached the Department of Environment vehicle and began to load the bag of marine life into it. He ignored orders to step away from the vehicle.
When Mr. Turpin opened the passenger door and tried to get the key out of the ignition, Miller swung the hook stick at the officer, missing his neck by inches.
Mr. Squire asked for Mr. Orr’s baton and he then tried to remove then ignition key, but Miller swung the hook stick at him also. Mr. Squire hit Miller on his arm with the baton, but was unable to get the key.
Miller subsequently drove away, sitting on top of the bag of marine life.
Questioned by Miller, Mr. Orr said he had a baton and handcuffs only because he is a special constable. He said the other officers had no equipment and none of them had pepper spray.
Marine Park Enforcement and Conservation Officer Clinton Nicholson told the court he was in the area of Eastern Avenue around 2.40pm when he spotted Miller jogging in a one-piece wet suit.
Mr. Nicholson assisted a police officer who exited from another car and tackled Miller, who struggled but was arrested.
At the police station Miller assaulted two officers by spitting at them.
Miller did not give evidence, but by his questions challenged the officers’ testimony. He denied ever having a hook stick.
He suggested that all the officers were armed with batons and pepper spray and that was why he had to take their vehicle — because he was in fear of his life.
He also suggested they were lying because of past dealings he had with marine officers and they were trying to create problems for him.
Police Constable Richard Scott was the officer who tackled Miller. Mr. Scott also found the marine officers’ vehicle.
The bag of marine life was not inside, but Mr. Orr described the vehicle seat and floor as being covered with conch slime.
The magistrate accepted the officers’ evidence and noted that a hook stick fits the definition of a spear gun under the law.
She said swinging the hook stick at the two officers was a common assault, since assault does not require contact to be made.
After Miller drove away, there was a sufficient window of time to hide the marine life and hook stick while he was out of any officer’s sight, the magistrate found.
In passing sentence, she pointed to Miller’s record of 85 previous convictions and said these latest were aggravated by the fact that they were just the latest in a string of similar offences.
She imposed separate sentences for each offence but ordered that they run concurrently.