Teen robber gets three years

The Cayman Islands courthouse

For a robbery he committed when he was 17 years and eight months old, Michael Aaron Bush was sentenced last week to three years’ imprisonment.

Bush previously pleaded guilty to robbing Deliza’s Grocery and Variety Store in West Bay on Sept. 9, 2015 and possessing an imitation firearm at the time.

A summary of facts set out by Crown counsel Nicole Petit and accepted by defense attorney Alice Carver indicated that the robbery occurred around 5:10 p.m. Two masked men entered the shop and one of them had what appeared to be a gun. They demanded and took an undetermined sum of money from the clerk.

One of the men wore a rubbery “old man” mask, while the other wore a helmet, with a red bandana on his face. After leaving the store, the men got away on a small scooter.

A relative of the clerk related an incident earlier in the day that involved Bush, who was on a scooter and carrying a red bandana. With him at that time was a smaller man wearing a rubber “old man” mask.

Police interviewed Bush the next day and he admitted committing the robbery, but initially said he was forced to do it by the other man. Later Bush said it was because of his ganja problem and he needed help.

Justice Robin McMillan noted that Bush had been of good character, apart from one minor non-violent offense.

He cited the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal, which in 2011 ruled that teenagers who entered a pizza house with a machete and threatened staff should have received a sentence of three years after pleading guilty. All four participants were 17 at the time.

Justice McMillan said he also reminded himself of Cayman’s sentencing guidelines that came into effect last year. “It is clear from the guidelines that the age of the offender is an important mitigating factor where it affects the responsibility of the individual defendant,” he said.

He pointed out that Bush was no longer a “young person” as defined by the Youth Justice Law, but he was “a very young man influenced by an older male to commit the offenses.”

There was no victim impact statement, but Justice McMillan accepted that some psychological distress and harm must have inevitably ensued.

He considered it to be in the interests of justice that the starting point for a period of imprisonment was at the bottom of the seven to 14 year range.

He said the aggravating factors – two people operating together and the use of disguises – raised the period of custody to seven years and six months. Taking into account the mitigating factors, he reduced that total to five years.

Since Bush had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity, a one-third reduction was deemed appropriate and the judge arrived at three years and four months. The judge then reduced the sentence to three years for each offense, ordering them to be concurrent.

He commented on Bush’s drug problem and professed wish to address it.

“It is to be hoped that Mr. Bush will use the time in custody to take advantage of the opportunities offered to him in Northward to rectify his substance abuse problem and become a productive and law-abiding member of the Caymanian community,” Justice McMillan concluded.

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