Court of Appeal 
clarifies sentence

Robbery sentence should have been three years

The appropriate sentence for the teens who robbed Domino’s Pizza last summer was three years’ imprisonment, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

However, the three-judge panel did not think it necessary to return the offenders to custody by imposing a sentence different from the one they received in October.

At that time, Justice Algernon Smith sentenced Anastasia Anasia Watson, Julissa Monique Avila and Addie Shanice Haylock to two years’ imprisonment, suspending 18 months of it. The effect was that the girls were to serve six months and not receive credit for the crime they had been in custody for since their arrest in June. All three were 17 at the time of the robbery but turned 18 before they were sentenced.

The fourth teen, Ariel Rendie McLaughlin, was not eligible for a partly suspended sentence because he was still 17. Justice Smith placed him on probation. Mclaughlin also had been in custody since June.

Crown Counsel Elisabeth Lees had given notice in October that the sentences would be appealed, and when the Court of Appeal began its spring session this month, the robbery was one of the first cases dealt with.

Court president Sir John Chadwick heard the appeal with Justices Ian Forte and A. Campbell.

They ruled that the Grand Court judge had erred when he said the sentencing guidelines would not apply when defendants pleaded guilty, as the teens did.

“The guidelines apply in all cases,” Justice Chadwick said. A discount for a guilty plea is appropriate, “but it is a discount starting from a point indicated by the guidelines.”

Cayman’s guidelines for robbery sentences set 14 years as a starting point for a first offence involving a firearm. For a first offence of an aggravated nature not involving a firearm, the tariff is eight years.

The aggravating factors in the teens’ robbery were that the girls entered the pizza shop armed with machetes and used threatening words. The mitigating factors were their guilty pleas, early cooperation and, as the judge saw it, some indication of remorse.

“Nonetheless, none of these offenders have thought fit to tell either then social services or the court why it was that they decided to embark on a premeditated robbery,” Justice Chadwick pointed out.

The view of the Court of Appeal was that if the judge had tackled the sentencing exercise according to the guidelines, he could have started at eight years and reduced it to five years because of the guilty plea. Then, taking into account the offenders’ youth, he could not have reached the conclusion that an appropriate sentence was less than three years.

With the usual time off for good behaviour, the girls were released from custody in February. The effect of imposing a sentence of three years now would be to return them to custody for the full three years minus the normal discount that applies.

Justice Chadwick said the court had thought carefully about it and concluded returning them to custody was not necessary in the interest of the administration of justice -or in the interest of maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice.

Similarly, the court did not think it necessary to interfere with the sentence imposed on McLaughlin, as the justices had been told it was working.

The court did not deal with Haylock because her attorney was absent due to a medical emergency.