Two years too much for pack of cigarettes, he argues
The value of goods stolen is only a minor factor when judges impose sentences for burglary, the Court of Appeal indicated earlier this month after hearing arguments from Thad Kaemeron Bodden.
Bodden was appealing the sentence of two years imprisonment he received last September from Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale after pleading guilty to burglary. Drug offences brought his total sentence to three and a half years, but he said he felt only the burglary penalty was excessive.
He told the court his version of the incident – he was accused by an ex-police officer of coming onto that man’s porch and grabbing a pack of cigarettes and a lighter.
“I thought it would be theft or trespassing,” he said.
He cited the 1998 case of Blanchard from the Criminal Law Reports, in which an offender with 16 previous offences received two and a half years. Bodden said he had only three previous convictions for burglary and one for attempted burglary.
“I don’t consider myself a persistent burglar,” he told the court. “I made a mistake that night.”
Bodden also advised the panel of appeal judges that he had been in the Drug Rehabilitation Court for more than seven months, but was held back from graduation after an incident, so he got disgusted.
Referring to the facts in his case, he pointed to mitigating factors: “I didn’t harm anybody, I didn’t have any weapon, I didn’t even enter the house,” he said. “I pleaded guilty from the get-go and the court didn’t have to waste time with me.”
Bodden also suggested he deserved credit for the time span since his previous offence of this nature.
Senior Crown Counsel Tanya Lobban referred to his total record of 33 offences and said the sentencing magistrate considered him a persistent offender with a risk of re-offending. She said Grand Court Justice Charles Quin had already dismissed his appeal.
Justice Abdullah Conteh said Bodden had not shown any remorse. He pointed out that the home owner had an alarm that had awakened him when Bodden intruded on the premises.
“I’m sorry,” Bodden said.
“You should have said that in the lower court and to the victim,” the judge told him.
Court president Sir John Chadwick consulted with Justice Conteh and Justice Ian Forte before delivering the decision.
He began with a summary of the incident. He said the homeowner retired around 11pm after setting his alarm system. He was awakened at 3.10am and saw an intruder trying to exit a screen door on the back porch. He gave chase for a short distance, but then returned home and called police.
Officers saw Bodden soon afterwards and he had the cigarettes and lighter on his person.
The value of the goods does not matter, Justice Chadwick said. Loss of material things is only a minor part of what makes domestic burglary serious; the offence leaves the occupants of the house with a sense of violation and insecurity. Aggravating features in this case were the time of night and the fact that the man’s wife and two children were also in the home when the incident occurred.
For a second or third burglary conviction, the tariff is three to four years, Justice Chadwick said.
The high court agreed with Justice Quin when he said the sentence was not manifestly excessive and the magistrate could not be faulted in any way. She did take into account the guilty plea and low value of goods stolen.
“Her decision is not one with which we disagree,” the president said.