A man who took too many conch while on bail for taking conch during closed season was jailed on Wednesday for 120 days.
Hank Thomas Jose Ebanks, 34, pleaded guilty to both charges. Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn indicated she was giving him the usual one-third discount for his guilty pleas.
Ebanks admitted taking 83 conch and one lobster in the Rum Point area on Oct. 9, 2015. This was during the closed season, when no taking of any marine life was allowed.
On that occasion he gave a “no comment” interview and was bailed, Crown counsel Claire Wetton told the court.
In March 2016, while on bail, Ebanks took 41 conch within a 24-hour period, again from Rum Point. The limit is five per day, Ms. Wetton noted.
This time when interviewed by police, Ebanks told them, “I was hungry. I went out and got some conch because I was hungry.”
In court this week, the magistrate asked him why he had taken so many conch.
“I gotta pay bills – eat, too,” he replied.
“I know it’s against the law,” Ebanks continued, “but I’m not going to rob anybody or break into somebody’s house and take what they worked hard for.”
He added that taking conch was “something I grew up doing.”
The magistrate adjourned briefly to obtain a probation report about the defendant. When court resumed, she reminded him that these were not his first offenses against marine conservation legislation – he had a conviction from 2013 for an unlicensed speargun.
The magistrate pointed out further that Ebanks had been on probation at the time of these offenses. She asked if he had completed a community service order for 60 hours and he confirmed that he had. She asked if he had attended an anger management course and he said he had been to some sessions, but acknowledged he had not graduated.
Questioned further, Ebanks said he had gone to counseling, had provided samples for drug testing and had ceased using cocaine. He admitted two charges of failing to surrender to custody.
In passing sentence, the magistrate said she would describe as “significant” the number of conch Ebanks had taken. The aggravating factor for the first offense was that it was committed during closed season. The aggravating factor for the second offense was that it was committed while on bail for the first offense.
In both cases, the amount of conch taken was not for personal consumption. “You took it for financial gain, albeit to pay bills,” she told Ebanks.
Another aggravating factor was that the offenses were committed while he was on probation. On the other hand, the single most mitigating factor was Ebanks pleading guilty, thus saving the time of the court and everyone who would have been involved in a trial.
The magistrate said the sentence she passed had to be a deterrent to Ebanks and a deterrent to the public. It had to make plain that such offenses will not be tolerated because they have a significant effect on marine life. Laws had been passed so that the next generation would benefit from marine life, she pointed out.
“We must reflect society’s displeasure at this offending,” she said.
Ebanks’s first offense would have attracted 60 days’ imprisonment after trial, but with credit for his guilty plea it would be 40 days, with seven days concurrent for the lobster. The sentence for the second offense would have been 120 days, but with credit it was 80 days. The total sentence was 120 days plus 14 days for failing to surrender to custody.
To complete the sentencing exercise, she noted that Ebanks had spent time on curfew and gave him 14 days credit for that. The final sentence was therefore 120 days.
Ebanks thanked the magistrate as he was returned to the cells.