Defendant gets 38 months after pleading guilty to three burglaries
The value of goods stolen is not the most important factor taken into account when passing sentence for burglary, Magistrate Valdis Foldats said last week.
He was explaining the process by which he arrived at 38 months imprisonment for Davis Myers Bennett, who pleaded guilty to burglary of a church and two residences in North Side.
“It’s terrifying for an individual to know his house has been burgled,” the magistrate told Bennett. “It destroys any sense of peaceful occupation of his home.”
In one of the burglaries, Bennett admitted taking four cans of beer and a $1 note.
Defence attorney John Furniss agreed that victims are upset and disturbed when their homes are burgled, but suggested that the defendant’s activity was of “nuisance value”.
“I disagree,” the magistrate replied. “Any residential burglary is a danger to all concerned.” He referred to a recent report of an intruder being chopped with a machete by the occupant; he recalled an earlier incident in which the intruder was fatally shot by the homeowner.
The magistrate also rejected the term “petty burglaries”. He quoted a Court of Appeal burglary judgment in which it was stated that it didn’t matter what was taken, it was the intrusive nature of the crime.
“The fear any homeowner has when his home is entered is unimaginable,” the magistrate continued. He pointed out that Bennett’s latest burglary had every aggravating factor one could imagine: it was at night, while the occupants were there, it was committed while on bail. He said he had no choice but to pass a deterrent sentence.
“The defendant and the public must realise – it’s not a nuisance,” he said.
Mr. Furniss apologised for use of the word “nuisance”. He indicated it was in the context of Bennett’s victims knowing him.
Crown counsel Toyin Salako said the first burglary occurred on 22 March, 2012 at a residence on Frank Sound Road. A table saw had been left on a screened-in porch. When it went missing, the homeowner notified police and advised that Bennett had been at the house earlier.
On 24 March, 2012, a cleaner went to the Church of God Full Gospel Hall on North Side Road and discovered that a side door had been forced open. A lawn mower, valued at $457, was missing.
Bennett was arrested and bailed.
The third burglary occurred on the night of 12 July, 2012, when the occupants were in bed asleep. They had gone to bed at 10.40pm and had awakened at 7am. Their home was entered between those times.
Mr. Furniss pointed out that Bennett’s admissions were in his favour. He was admitted to the Drug Rehabilitation Court because of a long-standing drug problem and then he was admitted to the Caribbean Haven residential programme.
The magistrate pointed out that Bennett was expelled from the programme for alcohol consumption.
Mr. Furniss said his client’s mother had health problems that were a serious concern to him. For a while, he had been doing well, the attorney noted.
The magistrate accepted that the burglaries were to support Bennett’s drug habit; they were not committed for the thrill of it or as commercial ventures. “All of these were the sad and desperate acts of a drug addict,” he commented.
He said he would take into account Bennett’s efforts in the drug court. “You did try, but it’s clear you’re not ready,” he told the defendant. He suggested that Bennett take advantage of every programme available to him in prison.
He noted that Bennett, 37, had a record of previous convictions that included burglary, although not since 2005.
Sentencing guideline in Cayman call for three to four years for a second or subsequent burglary. Because of aggravating factors, the magistrate started at four years for the last offence but reduced it by one-third for the plea and gave another six months credit for Bennett’s efforts in drug court, for a total of 26 months.
He then imposed a term of 12 months for the first two burglaries, running concurrent with each other but consecutive to the first term. The total was 38 months.
The magistrate said he would recommend that the defendant be granted escorted compassionate leave to deal with his mother’s illness.