Judge cites ‘public interest’ in burglary sentences

Defendants were young, remorseful and pleaded guilty early

Two young men who pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment last week. Justice Robin McMillan said their sentences were “no longer than are necessary in the public interest in all the circumstances of this case.”

Brandon Shaquille Browning was three weeks shy of his 19th birthday and Jamie Darnel McLean was 21 when they entered a residence as trespassers with intent to steal and had a flick knife with them. Possession of the weapon makes the burglary aggravated.

The incident occurred at an apartment on West Bay Road on Nov. 7, 2015.

The defendants appeared in Grand Court on Nov. 20 and asked for an indication of what their sentence would be if they pleaded guilty. The hearing took place on Dec. 14, when Justice Robin McMillan considered the basis on which they were willing to plead guilty.

He said the offending was at the medium level of culpability because it involved the production of a knife to threaten the victims. A victim impact statement indicated that the harm caused to the victims was psychological. The judge therefore said his starting point for sentence would be four years, with a range from two to six years.

The defendants pleaded guilty, social inquiry reports were ordered and attorney Alice Carver subsequently spoke in mitigation.

The following factors were in their favor: their age; their show of remorse; the lack of premeditation; their previous character. Browning had no previous convictions.

Aggravating factors included McLean’s previous convictions; he was on a suspended sentence supervision order at the time of this offense. Also against them was the fact that they were both under the influence of alcohol and ganja.

At the sentencing hearing, Justice McMillan took four years as his starting point and added six months because the defendants were “operating in a group.” The use of a weapon was not specifically addressed as an aggravating factor because it had already been taken into account when assessing the level of culpability and the starting point for the offense.

The judge accepted the mitigating factors plus background information revealed in the social inquiry reports, plus references for the defendants from people in the community.

For these reasons, the sentence for each was reduced to three years and then the discount for the guilty plea was applied for a total of two years.

“This offense was extremely serious and this is confirmed by the victim impact report which the court has considered in the context of the issues relating to harm and culpability. At the same time, both these young men show some promise, in that, if they can deal with the problems of their alcohol and ganja use, they may yet lead productive lives. For this reason, these respective sentences are no longer than are necessary in the public interest in all the circumstances of this case,” the judge concluded.