A teenager who photocopied a $50 note and tried to spend it in school escaped a criminal conviction after a judge accepted that he is a “promising scholar” who had made a “foolish mistake.”
The 17-year-old, a student at St. Ignatius School, was sentenced Monday to 240 hours of community service after admitting possession of forged currency.
The court heard that he had tendered the forged note at school in an attempt to gain genuine currency in exchange. The school receptionist challenged him about the counterfeit bill and he was later summoned to the head-teacher, and the police were called.
Justice Charles Quin said the forgery was a “crude and clumsy” copy of a single note made on ordinary photocopy paper and lacking any evidence of sophistication or planning.
He said the defendant had shown clear remorse, writing a letter of apology to the school.
His head-teacher submitted a letter of reference urging the court to be lenient and suggesting the “foolish behavior” had been an important lesson.
“He has a bright future ahead of him, and we believe that the outcome of this court case will have a profound impact on his future career prospects,” the principal wrote in his letter.
Richard Barton, who represented the student at the initial sentencing hearing last Wednesday, said he is a promising and award-winning student who has a passion for accounting and had been provisionally accepted to universities in the U.K. and U.S.
“This is a young man who is an accomplished scholar with a promising future. He has expressed deep remorse and continued to apply himself in a productive manner,” he added.
He asked the court to consider the young man’s “trajectory and his likely contribution to these islands” and “don’t stand in the way of his progress and respond with leniency and not record a conviction for this offense.”
Justice Quin said he had taken into account the defendant’s young age, his clear remorse, his strong family background and bright academic future along with the references in coming to his sentence.
“This was clearly a serious error of judgment on the part of this defendant. The fact that he is a bright and intelligent student makes this offense all the more disappointing for his family, his school and for himself. However, he has acknowledged his culpability and demonstrated sincere remorse,” the justice said.
Passing sentence on Monday, he said the court would not record a conviction on completion of 240 hours community service – equivalent to six weeks of full-time work. If the defendant fails to comply, he is liable to a $2,000 fine and to be sentenced again and a conviction recorded.