A Grand Court judge acquitted a man accused of handling stolen goods due to the “inadequate” standard of the police investigation into the case, the court heard this week.
After a trial lasting less than half of a day, Justice Malcolm Swift agreed with attorney Fiona Robertson on Monday that there was no case for her client to answer and he found Patrick Elbert McField not guilty of handling stolen goods, observing, “The inadequate investigation of the case leaves me in a state of uncertainty.”
During the trial, the judge remarked, “Any failings of the police should not be held against the defendant.”
McField had chosen to be tried by judge alone. His charge was dishonestly receiving a Suzuki motorcycle knowing or believing it to be stolen. A police officer had questioned him about the bike on Aug. 7, 2012.
On Sept. 18, 2012, police checked the bike’s vehicle identification number with the Vehicle Licencing Department. The check showed the name of the owner and that the Suzuki had been reported stolen on June 9, 2012. The bike was subsequently identified by the owner, although it had been modified and painted a different color.
When interviewed and told the bike had been stolen, McField said he had bought it from “guys in West Bay” for $2,500. He said he was told that someone else had the paperwork for the Suzuki, so he would have to wait for it before transferring ownership. He said he did not want to name the sellers because he didn’t want to be known as an informer.
He also told officers he had a receipt for payment for the bike, but he didn’t know where it was.
In his written decision, Justice Swift said that McField not wanting to be an informer was not a valid excuse for failing to cooperate with police. He also suggested that, when McField said he had a receipt, police officers could have accompanied him to his address so he could look for it in their presence and thus avoid any suspicion that a receipt produced later was a forgery.
McField subsequently produced a copy of a receipt, listing a name and an address in Florida. The name was not the same as the owner’s.
Justice Swift pointed out that no request was made for the original receipt so that its authenticity could be checked. A check to see if the person named on the receipt had a driver’s license or any record with the Cayman Islands Immigration Department resulted in no such name being found. No effort was made to see if the Florida address for the person was genuine.
The judge said police officers should be told what they ought to be doing in terms of investigating offenses like this.
Justice Swift said he had considerable suspicion that McField had bought the bike knowing it was stolen, but his suspicion was not enough.