Teen was a cocaine baby and neglected child, judge notes
The teen who robbed the Lookout grocery store in Bodden Town in May was sentenced last week to three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment.
Since he was 15 at the time of the robbery, Justice Charles Quin ordered that no reference be made to details that could identify him.
The teen pleaded guilty in October to robbing the store on Anton Bodden Drive on the afternoon of May 28 and carrying an imitation firearm with intent to commit the offense. He stole $932 and put the store owner in fear of being subjected to force.
In November, the teen pleaded guilty to a further charge arising from the same incident – common assault against a customer in the store.
Crown Counsel Nicole Petit said the teen, wearing a black face mask with only his eyes showing, along with dark clothes and gloves, entered the store around 3:58 p.m. He pointed the firearm at the owner and shouted at her to give him the money. He appeared to be in an agitated and erratic state, Ms Petit said.
A male customer was near the cash-out counter at the time and another person entered the store. The robber pointed the imitation firearm at each of them and continued to shout for the owner to give him money.
The male customer attempted to confront the robber, but the robber pushed him and kicked him, causing him to fall.
The store owner opened the till and removed the $932. The robber took it, left the store and rode off on a bicycle. Two people who saw him leave gave a description to police. The teen was apprehended and officers recovered clothing nearby that matched the robber’s description, along with a silver flare gun and other items.
Justice Quin expressed gratitude to the witnesses who had given police information that led to the defendant’s arrest.
Defense attorney John Furniss said the robber is now 16, and emphasized the early guilty pleas, remorse and cooperation with police. He referred to the defendant’s family history and acknowledged that he had found it “very disturbing.”
In passing sentence, Justice Quin detailed some of that history from the social inquiry report, which he called “extremely depressing reading.” It noted that the teen was known to the Department of Children and Family Services since he was an infant because he had tested positive for crack cocaine at birth.
“He started life addicted to cocaine, followed by years of instability, neglect and little parental love,” the report stated. “The nurture, discipline and stability needed by children to strive were missing throughout his life.”
At age five he was found to be a neglected child and was placed on one of a series of “Fit Person” orders. He was placed in the Boys Home, but ran away six to eight times. Offenses prior to the robbery included driving, consuming ganja and threatening violence.
Justice Quin pointed out that the element of violence is the most serious aspect of robbery. He said the degree of force used in a robbery is an important factor in determining the seriousness of the offense, but so is the degree of fear experienced by the victim.
In this case, it was clear the storekeeper and customer must have been extremely terrified by a masked person with a gun, the judge said, while the violence against the customer was gratuitous and warranted a consecutive sentence.
He quoted sentencing guidelines that included a statement from the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal in 2010: “Nevertheless, those who arm themselves with weapons and undertake premeditated robbery of small commercial businesses in these islands must expect at least five years’ imprisonment if they are convicted.”
However, U.K. guidelines state that the starting point for a young offender is three years, with a range of one to six years.
Taking all the factors into account, Justice Quin imposed a term of three years for robbery, three years concurrent for the imitation firearm and six months consecutive for the assault.
“I stress that, as the defendant becomes older, it is vital that he take responsibility for his actions,” he concluded. “The defendant must help himself and stay away from criminals and crime.”