New year's jewelry robbers lose appeals

The appeals against sentence of three men who pleaded guilty last year to the 2014 New Year’s Day robbery of Diamonds International jewelry store were dismissed on Monday. 

Jonathan Mark Ramoon received 15 years, James Herbert McLean received 12 years and Christopher Julian Myles received 10 years. 

The Court of Appeal noted that this was the “highest value” robbery to take place in the Cayman Islands, with just under $815,000 worth of jewelry stolen from the downtown store. Almost all of it was recovered, apart from three rings valued at $4,000. 

Attorney Nick Hoffman argued that McLean did not receive enough credit for his relative youth (he was 22 at the time of the robbery) and the fact that he had only two minor convictions (ganja and failing to surrender to custody). The court said the youth argument was meant for teenagers with no previous convictions who make an error; a court will strive to do what it can for them. 

Sir Alan Moses pointed out that a young age is 15 or 16; “22 is grown up, getting a grown-up sentence.” McLean was acknowledged as the robber with the hammer who smashed showcases. Because the robbery was a joint enterprise, he was also charged with possession of an unlicensed firearm. 

Ramoon was the robber who entered first; he had the firearm – a Smith and Wesson .38 handgun loaded with five live rounds – and used it to force a security guard to the floor and then intimidate customers and staff. 

Attorney John Meghoo argued that Justice Charles Quin erred in comparing this robbery to a U.K. precedent referred to as “Thomas.” In that case a gang robbed a jewelry store of items valued at 40 million pounds and shots were fired. Further, the gang had committed previous robberies. 

Mr. Meghoo submitted that the Cayman robbery was nowhere near as sophisticated as the U.K. robbery, the men in Cayman had not acted together in any other crime and no shots were fired. 

He accepted that Ramoon had a previous conviction of an unlicensed firearm. 

The Court of Appeal cited Justice Quin’s references to the use of masks as disguise, the wearing of gloves so as not to leave fingerprints or DNA, and said the robbery was well planned. 

For Myles, attorney Crister Brady said he should have received a bigger discount for his plea. As the getaway driver, he was brought into the plan only the night before the robbery and did not know a gun would be used.  

He had delayed his plea until the Crown accepted his role in the robbery and did not charge him with the firearm. 

The court said all of the three men knew full well what their roles had been in the robbery; they could have pleaded guilty much earlier on whatever basis they chose, instead of waiting six or eight months to enter their pleas. 

The court referred to Justice Quin’s comment that he was not holding it against them that they did not identify the fourth robber, who got away. However, their failure to do so did dilute their professed remorse. 

In delivering the court’s decision, Sir Bernard Rix pointed out that the robbery could have had a damaging effect on Cayman’s tourist industry, since it had taken place around 8 a.m. across from the dock where tourists were coming ashore from cruise ships. In addition, two civilians who assisted in holding the robbers were injured. 

Justice Rix noted that the robbery took less than a minute and a half; the three men in court would probably have made good their escape if not for the quick action and courage of Police Commissioner David Baines, who was driving downtown off duty. He saw the robbers, realized what was happening and drove his car into their getaway car. 

They ran but were apprehended. Ramoon was pinned under the commissioner’s vehicle and injured; however, this fact was not a part of his grounds of appeal. 

The scene outside Diamonds International on Jan. 1 this year following the robbery. - PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY
The scene outside Diamonds International on Jan. 1 this year following the robbery. – PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY