Magistrate takes new approach to theft
Saying he had to send a message that shoplifting must stop, Magistrate Valdis Foldats dealt with two theft charges on Monday in a way he never had before: He ordered the defendants to pay the store more than double the value of the goods they had stolen.
“Shoplifting is very serious,” he told the first woman who pleaded guilty. “Some people might think it’s no big deal because the monetary value is not high. But that’s not the right way to look at it. “You’re affecting everyone on the island. The more shoplifting there is, the more businesspeople have to take measures – security guards, CCTV. Guess who pays? We all pay because prices are increased to cover those costs.”
The magistrate said he had to send a message that shoplifting must stop. Possible sentences include jail, he noted.
The woman admitted stealing two pairs of children’s slippers, stomach medicine and vitamins from Cost-U-Less in February. Crown counsel Tricia Hutchinson said a security guard observed the woman pick up the slippers and place them in her shopping trolley. Later he saw her place something in her handbag and then he did not see the slippers in the trolley. The goods were valued at $81.94.
After her guilty plea at a previous court appearance, the court had ordered a social inquiry report. It indicated that she was a person of previous exceptional character, the magistrate said. She had graduated from high school in her home country of Honduras, was president of her class, intended to continue schooling but need money for her children, so she came to Cayman to work. Her employer said the defendant was responsible, reliable and like family. The magistrate said he would not record a conviction in this case. Instead, he conditionally discharged her on a recognizance of $950 for one year. She must sign a promise to the court that she will not get in trouble again for one year and she must perform 20 hours of community service within two months.
Further, the magistrate considered that under the Alternative Sentencing Law, he could do something he had not previously done in shoplifting cases: She is to pay Cost-U-Less $200 through the courts office within the next two months.
If she does not comply, the magistrate explained, she will be brought back for sentencing and then the disposal could include jail.
The second defendant had also been the subject of a social inquiry report after she pleaded guilty to theft. Her offense occurred at Cost-U-Less in December. Ms. Hutchinson told the court that a security guard observed the woman place shoes in her shopping trolley; later he also found a five-pack of sardines, 12 packs of tuna and a bottle of coconut oil. He asked for her receipt, but she did not have one.
The magistrate said that because she took responsibility for what she had done, the court had more options in dealing with her. Her social inquiry report showed she had come to Cayman from Jamaica in 2007 and was a responsible, hard-working person. At the time of her offense, she had been under stress and not thinking clearly, the court heard. She realized what her offending had done to her image in the community.
The magistrate gave her a conditional discharge, with the conditions being a recognizance, the payment of $200 to the store, through the courts office, and 20 hours of community service.