Defendant admits handling stolen goods
Following “an extraordinary set of facts” presented in Grand Court last month, Justice Charles Quin determined that a cell phone had been stolen from a driver after he crashed his car along the Esterley Tibbetts Highway last year.
Two versions of the facts were presented when Paul Michael Miller, 20, pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods – the driver’s BlackBerry Bold cell phone.
Crown Counsel Marilyn Brandt told the court that the owner of the phone went out drinking with friends about 10pm on 14 May, 2011. Around 1am, he arrived at a friend’s residence. He left there at 4am and stopped at another friend’s house in Windsor Park before setting out for West Bay.
While driving along the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, he felt someone grab him from behind. He began to struggle and the person punched him in the mouth. As a result, the driver ran the car into the bush. Afterward, he exited and flagged down another motorist to phone police.
Ms Brandt said a passenger, who had been asleep in the back seat, subsequently realised his watch was missing.
Defence attorney Fiona Robertson did not agree with the Crown’s summary of the way the theft occurred. She suggested that the driver’s level of intoxication was too high for the Crown to proceed on the basis of his account.
She said Miller and someone known only as Randy were walking in the area and heard the crash. They approached the vehicle and looked in; they saw two men asleep.
Ms Robertson said Randy decided to take the phone, even though Miller told him not to. A few days later, Randy gave the stolen phone to Miller, who accepted it because he needed it at the time. He used it for several days.
When Miller was arrested, he admitted having the phone and knowing it was stolen. He also admitted being present at the time of the theft.
It was at this stage of the hearing that Justice Quin referred to the “extraordinary set of facts.”
In his sentence ruling, he summarised what was agreed by Crown and defence: That the complainant went out drinking with friends; that after a few hours he drove one friend home and was then driving along the Esterley Tibbetts Highway when he crashed the car; that the driver and his passenger fell asleep in the car after it crashed; that Miller and Randy came upon the car while its occupants were asleep.
On that basis, the judge considered the factors Ms Robertson asked him to take into account. The stolen phone was not of high value, it was not of sentimental value, and it was returned to its owner. The phone was not obtained as the result of a domestic burglary and Miller was not a “fence” or someone who made a high level of profit from the theft.
Personal details included the fact that Miller is serving two years for two burglaries that occurred around the same time as the handling offence. Ms Robertson said Miller had a stable family life that would be a support for him, but in his teens he had fallen in with the wrong crowd and started using ganja. He wants to complete his schooling after prison and then study to be a mechanic.
Justice Quin quoted a social inquiry report that stated, “To avoid recidivism and become a productive member of society he will need to rid himself of his dependency on the use of drugs and alcohol and start making pro-social choices, which includes changing his peer association.”
Citing all these factors, plus Miller’s cooperation and early guilty plea, the judge imposed a term of six months imprisonment, but made it run concurrent with his present sentence. He urged Miller to put drug use and criminal conduct behind him so that he could train for a highly regarded occupation and have full-time employment with a regular income.
“This is important for you, your family and your self-esteem,” the judge pointed out.