Man stole charity boxes

Drug addiction was root of problem, defence attorney says

After admitting eight thefts of charity boxes, tip containers and phones from stores, gas stations and a restaurant, Patrick Noel Watler was sentenced to

33 months imprisonment.

The amount of money involved was not determined, but in two instances the container was thought to have held $30 to $35.

Defence Attorney John Furniss described the thefts as nuisance crimes that were not only unpleasant but also time-consuming for the court and police. He said all the offences related to Watler’s drug problem, calling them opportunistic thefts for cash.

Magistrate Nova Hall said the argument of opportunistic offence carried weight when it was a one-off. “A series of thefts of charity containers — that becomes his pattern,” she pointed out.

The magistrate heard about five of the thefts in March and imposed terms totalling 27 months. Earlier this month, another three came before the court. Watler again pleaded guilty and the Magistrate imposed concurrent and consecutive terms that had the effect of extending his sentence by six months.

Crown Counsel Jenesha Simpson detailed the thefts, which came to police attention starting 3 February, 2010. Watler entered the Caymania Duty Free Store and picked up a cell phone that had been left on a display case. He then walked out. He was not known to the staff, but when the CCTV was reviewed a police officer was able to identify Watler as the individual. He was later seen and admitted the theft, saying he sold the phone to someone who had since left the Island.

On 3 April, 2010, he entered Seven Mile Esso and took a donations can from the cash register area. The can had been placed there by a woman whose son was injured in a shooting. Watler was seen placing the can in his pants and leaving the store.

On 4 April, 2010, he entered the Foster’s store at the Strand, took a donation can from the customer service area. The can had been placed there by the same woman seeking help for her injured son. Surveillance footage showed Watler sticking the can in his pants waist.

On 21 April, 2010, he entered Rainbow Photo at Elizabethan Square and picked up a cash pan from behind the counter. He was confronted by store employees who held on to him and retrieved the cash. When a customer entered the store, however, he was able to get away.

At Luz Restaurant on Smith Road that same day he stole a tip pan with $33 in it. He had approached the cashier and then pretended to make a phone call; when she left the area, he picked up the pan. She shouted at him and he left.

On 17 June, 2010, he went to Book Nook and stole two donation cans, put them in his pants waist and left. A staff member noticed they were missing and reported the matter to the store owner. One can was for Big Brothers, Big Sisters and the other was for the Cancer Society. Police recovered CCTV footage and observed the defendant. When he was arrested and cautioned, he replied, “I did it, sir.”

At the first sentencing Mr. Furniss acknowledged that Watler, now 44, had previous convictions. He entered the Drug Rehabilitation Court programme, but was removed because of further offending and failing to attend court. “He had not to that extent been able to get his addiction under control,” the attorney advised. “One hopes that this time when he is released, he will be able to.”

He noted that Watler had been in and out of custody, so he asked for that time to count toward the sentence.

The final three thefts occurred in 2011. On New Year’s Day, he went to Mike’s Esso on Walkers Road and stole a donation can, the property of the Cancer Society. The method was the same: picking it up, putting it in the waist of his pants and walking out.

On 27 January at the National Museum, he stole a Blackberry on a counter at the admissions office. He was subsequently identified from CCTV. He told police he had sold it for $75 to buy food and cigarettes.

On 3 February, he entered Crave Clothing Store and stole a staff tip box. He was identified on CCTV; spoken to later by police, he again said he had used the money for food and cigarettes.

In passing sentence, the magistrate said she was taking a global approach, giving him credit for his pleas and co-operation, but also considering his previous convictions and failure to take advantage of the drug court opportunity.