Defendant was given a chance in Drug Rehabilitation Court
Charlton Bengar Ebanks has been sentenced to three years in prison for seven burglaries, including two committed while on bail and wearing an electronic monitor.
Three months of the sentence were for escaping from custody while a patient in the George Town Hospital where he was taken after a vehicle accident that led to his arrest. Chief Magistrate Nova Hall said she was taking a totality approach, making some sentences concurrent, partly because several of the charges had been laid as a result of Ebanks’ own admissions.
In Summary Court last week, Crown Counsel Kenneth Ferguson and defence attorney John Furniss provided a narrative for the offences, which began in October 2011 and concluded in June this year. All of the burglaries appeared to be residential, but mostly during the daytime while the occupants were not home.
The first incident occurred in West Bay on 10 October, 2011. A woman returning home around 2pm unlocked her front door and went inside. In the kitchen she saw a piece of paper on the floor, cabinet doors open and the back door slightly open. Noticing that her laptop was missing, she called 911.
Police, including a canine unit, responded and searched the house and examined the damaged back door. Officers found a shirt left behind by whoever had broken in and they had it tested for DNA. A thorough search by the woman revealed a quantity of items missing, mostly electronic equipment. The charge against Ebanks put the total value of the property at US$17,725.
On 11 October, 2011, a house on Bodden Town Road was broken into. A radio, camera and remote-control plane were taken; total value was US$500.
On 16 November, police received a report that a motor vehicle had crashed into a chain link fence on Watercourse road in West Bay, causing extensive damage. At the scene, officers observed a number of electronic items in the vehicle along with full bottles of alcoholic beverages. Ebanks was not at the scene but was found shortly afterward. He was bleeding and had several wounds to the head and face.
Taken to hospital around 6pm, he was guarded by a police officer who said he cuffed Ebanks’ left hand to the bed and checked him during the night. Around 5am, Ebanks said he wanted to take a shower and use the restroom.
The officer uncuffed him and stood in the doorway leading to the corridor while Ebanks was in the toilet/shower facility. Around 5.30am, the officer checked and the shower was off. Ebanks was not in the bathroom or anywhere in the room, the window to which was closed. His shoes were no longer in the room.
Ebanks remained at large until 29 December. He told police he escaped because his birthday and Christmas were coming up and he didn’t want to spend them in custody.
In subsequent interviews he admitted the October burglaries plus one on 15 November and two others the day of the vehicle accident. In one of the last three, electronic goods and jewellery were stolen; total value was US$9,500. In the two others, the same types of items were stolen, but their value was unknown.
Because drug abuse was said to be at the root of Ebanks’ offending and because he had just turned 22 with no serious previous convictions, he was allowed to apply for participation in the Drug Rehabilitation Court.
In April, however, he was returned to the regular Summary Court because he did not comply with the drug court regimen. He was placed on the electronic monitoring programme.
On 12 June, police received a report of two burglaries at an apartment complex in West Bay. From one room, three pairs of shoes and a 32-inch television set were stolen. Total value was $775. A watch, CD/radio and a pair of shoes were taken from another room; no value was given.
Two males had been seen in the vicinity earlier that day and the description given included the fact that one of them was wearing an electronic bracelet. Information obtained from the monitoring supervisor indicated that Ebanks was at the premises at the time.
At the sentencing hearing last week, Mr. Furniss noted that his client’s record was one of drugs, dating back to 2009. He had had a good job with the Road Authority, but when drug tests were ordered, he walked off the job. With no stable job and his problems with ganja, he involved himself in burglaries.
“He was introduced to ganja by his father. He started at an early age,” Mr. Furniss said of Ebanks.
When the chance was given for him to take part in the drug court, Ebanks himself had expressed concern that he would not be able to keep up with requirements such as attendance at meetings and counselling sessions. Mr. Furniss, who serves as duty counsel for unrepresented defendants in the drug court, said one of the difficulties with young people who apply is that “There is no ethic or discipline or sense of responsibility … It is very hard for the individual and extremely frustrating for the counsellors.”
“If he does not get treatment we will warehouse him and we will be left with someone who is in the same position when he gets out of prison,” the attorney said.
He agreed that Ebanks had not embraced the drug court protocols with enormous enthusiasm, but was starting to realise he had to deal with his problem. He asked the court to consider residential treatment so that Ebanks would not be a nuisance after release. He said society clearly requires that a person’s property be protected and one’s home not be trespassed upon.
The magistrate agreed that rehabilitation should be a goal of the judicial system, but Ebanks had received community-based sentences before and was noncompliant. In discussions with his probation officer, he had been equivocal and expressed a desire for material support more than counselling, she noted.
That said, he deserved a discounted sentence for his guilty pleas and time in custody was to be deducted. Sentences arising from the traffic accident were made to run concurrent.