Seven years for domestic burglary at night was not excessive
The Court of Appeal last week rejected an application by Andy James Myles to hear his appeal against a seven-year sentence imposed after he was found guilty of burglary.
Attorney Nicholas Hoffman had argued that the term was excessive because Myles and his companion did not have any weapon and did not inflict any harm on the occupant of the house. He pointed out that Myles, now 25, had previously received five years for aggravated burglary; the latest sentence was longer, but for a less serious offence.
In passing sentence last December, Justice Charles Quin had pointed to several aggravating features: The burglary was at night while the premises were occupied; it was well planned, as indicated by masks and the clothing worn. “This was a cold, calculated burglary of a private dwelling in which the intruders awakened the lady of the house, in what she described as terrifying circumstances,” he said.
The woman’s evidence was that she was awakened by two intruders standing over her bed. They demanded that she get up and take them to a safe in the house and open it. The opening of the safe activated an alarm and the men fled, having taken other items before awakening the woman.
Court of Appeal President Sir John Chadwick said the woman had been very sensible in doing what she was told. Although she was not harmed physically, he wondered about psychological harm. He found it difficult to imagine anything more frightening than waking up to see two men standing over you. He asked what a weapon would have added to that.
“They are perfectly capable of inflicting harm without a weapon. She is an elderly lady and they are big young men,” he pointed out.
Mr. Hoffman referred to sentencing precedents and guidelines in the UK, arguing that the essentials of burglary are the same worldwide.
“The social concerns of the Cayman Islands are not the same as England,” Sir John replied. “This Island until recently had a culture in which people did not even lock their doors. It’s people like your client who changed that.”
The court referred to other sentences on Myles’ record, of 18 months and nine months, also for burglary. The record disclosed a total of five burglaries. Justice Abdulai Conteh remarked, “He was barely out of incarceration when he committed this [last offence]. Before the year was out, he was at it again.”
Justice Elliot Mottley said he was surprised that someone given five years would then get 18 and nine month sentences for further offences.
After conferring briefly with his colleagues, the court president said they did not need to hear from Crown Counsel Michael Snape before announcing their decision. He pointed out that, even though the men did not have a weapon, their demand that the woman take them to the safe carried with it an implied threat of violence if she did not comply.
He said Myles was not to be sentenced on his record, but that record indicated he was a serial burglar and previous sentences had had no deterrent effect.
The president pointed out that whatever the position may be in the UK, the position in Cayman, as Justice Quin had said, was that the increase in burglaries of residential premises was a matter of concern and ought to be marked by deterrent sentences.
The maximum for burglary is 14 years, he noted. In the circumstances of this case, seven years could not be regarded as manifestly excessive. Justice Quin had been fully entitled to take the view that this conduct needed to be deterred; seven years was appropriate for this purpose, Sir John concluded.
As revealed in the Grand Court trial, the person with Myles was never found.