A man with eight previous convictions for burglary was sentenced last week to a total of seven years, nine months for burglaries number nine, 10 and 11. Number nine was at a George Town home; the other two were at non-residential premises.
Otis Melbourne Myles, 29, had pleaded not guilty to all three charges. He was found guilty after trials in Summary Court.
Myles was then sent to Grand Court for sentencing because the magistrate was of the opinion that the offending was so serious that Summary Court did not have sufficient sentencing power to deal with it. A magistrate is typically limited to imposing sentences of no more than four years, one exception being for drug offenses.
In sentencing Myles on Thursday, Justice Alastair Malcolm dealt first with the home burglary, saying such offenses are serious and merit severe sentence even when committed by someone of previous good character.
“The feeling that their house has been invaded can often last longer in the mind of the owner than the sense of loss of the items stolen,” he commented.
The burglary occurred on the evening of Dec. 23, 2013, while the occupants were off-island. Entry was gained by forcing open a door leading from the garage into the house. Two doors were damaged and the house was ransacked.
The burglary was discovered by a special constable who was in the area because of a reported car theft. The judge noted that the burglary may have been in progress when the constable arrived. Items taken from the home and later found abandoned included a television set, fishing rods, a laptop, a generator and diving gear. “Of much greater significance for the homeowners was that a safe had been removed from the property and with it jewelry valued at between US$125,000 and $150,000.”
Justice Malcolm said the ransacking compounded the offense. Further, the jewelry was not only very valuable, but also highly cherished. It was never recovered.
Myles was arrested after his fingerprints were found on an item in the house. He admitted being in the area, but denied any involvement. He claimed he had assisted a male in the area who had been moving some property.
The burglary of a George Town business occurred on a Sunday morning in May 2015 while Myles was on bail for the earlier matter. A worker was in the office when he heard a rear door being forced open. He opened the office door and saw a man standing there holding an item that belonged to the business. When challenged, the intruder dropped the item and fled in a dark hatchback vehicle.
CCTV footage was examined and Myles’s dark-colored vehicle was seen heading toward the business; the same vehicle was seen heading away from the business four minutes later. Myles’s fingerprints were found both outside and inside the back door.
The third burglary was at the First Baptist Christian School on Crewe Road in June 2015. An upstairs office was entered, cabinets and drawers opened, and files and papers were on the floor. An alarm was triggered around 4 a.m.
CCTV showed a gray car approaching the school around 3:31 a.m. and traveling away from it at 4 a.m. Myles had the use of the vehicle. On a rooftop below the office, a headband was found and DNA on it proved to match Myles’s DNA.
At the sentencing hearing, defense attorney Alice Carver argued that the new sentencing guidelines for burglary came into effect only in November 2015, while Myles’s offenses had occurred before that date. Therefore, she submitted, he should be sentenced according to the older guidelines.
Patrick Moran, deputy director of Public Prosecutions, disagreed. He pointed to a U.K. case in which it was made clear that as long as the maximum sentence in force at the time of the offense is not exceeded, it is permissible for a sentencing judge to have regard to current sentencing guidelines.
Justice Malcolm concurred. “In my judgment, a sentencing judge can have regard to the 2015 Cayman Islands Sentencing Guidelines even when the offenses occurred before these guidelines were issued,” he said.
Under the new guidelines, the starting point for the residential burglary is six years; the maximum sentence by law for burglary is 14 years. Justice Malcolm said the appropriate sentence in this case was six years, nine months.
For the burglary at the business premises, where nothing was stolen, the judge imposed nine months’ imprisonment. For the burglary at the school, he imposed 12 months.
All three sentences should be consecutive, he pointed out. However, considering totality, he made the last two sentences concurrent. As a result, Myles will serve the sentence of six years, nine months and then a further 12 months.