A man who admitted to driving while disqualified for the third time ended up with a prison sentence of six months.
Owaine Anthony Thompson, 27, appeared in Summary Court on Wednesday before Magistrate Angelyn Hernandez, who had given him a suspended sentence last year for driving while disqualified. That had been his second conviction for the same offense.
This week, Mr. Thompson appeared from custody after being arrested on March 28 for driving 64 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone, driving without insurance, and driving while disqualified.
“Mr. Thompson’s driving has again put the family in problems,” defense attorney John Furniss said.
He explained that the defendant’s wife was present in court. Her mother had been diagnosed with a serious health condition and had to go to Jamaica for treatment.
“The plan was that Mrs. Thompson would go with her to make arrangements and he would remain here to look after their child,” Mr. Furniss told the court.
The child is 3 years old.
After consulting with Mrs. Thompson, Mr. Furniss said there were no family members to assist, so if the defendant remained in custody, treatment for Mrs. Thompson’s mother would have to be delayed because she could not travel on her own.
The attorney raised the possibility of house arrest as a sentence and told the court that his client was asking if there could be a stay before the time he had to commence serving his sentence.
“I’m not even minded to consider it because he will get behind a wheel again,” the magistrate replied.
Then, speaking directly to Mr. Thompson, she said, “Last August I warned you. The only reason you got a suspended sentence then was because of your family situation …. You knew the consequences. You had a sentence hanging over your head.”
The magistrate did not go into details of the family situation last year, but pointed to Mrs. Thompson sitting at the side of the courtroom where the defendant could see her.
“Your wife is there and doesn’t even know how she is going to cope,” the magistrate told him.
Crown counsel Kenneth Ferguson provided the background to the latest offenses, stating that two officers clocked the speeding vehicle while they were carrying out a traffic check along West Bay Road on March 28. The officers signaled the driver to stop and he did so. He told officers he was rushing to get his child to take to school. He said he was a mechanic and the owner had left him the car for an oil change and he had taken the car to get the child.
One of the officers recognized him and asked if he was disqualified. He said, “Yes, sir.”
Mr. Thompson was arrested and cautioned, at which point he replied, “Oh God, I am going to prison now.”
In court, Mr. Furniss acknowledged that Mr. Thompson and his driving had now brought difficulty upon the household. He said the magistrate was unimpressed by the contempt the defendant had shown for the previous order of the court not to drive. He noted that the family had put together $1,800 to pay his traffic fines from a matter in 2016 rather than having Mr. Thompson spend time in custody in lieu of payment. That money could have been spent on the mother’s medical treatment. Mr. Furniss said: “I’m sorry to put it in such bleak terms, but that is the reality …. Many times it is not the defendant who suffers the most – it’s the family.”
The magistrate agreed and said it gave her no pleasure to see the defendant’s wife, who sat quietly with her head bowed at one stage and her hands covering her face.
“We tell our children if they don’t hear, they must feel,” the magistrate continued. Now it was time for Mr. Thompson to feel the consequences of his offending, she said.
The sentence of three months that was suspended last August was now effective and must be served, she ruled. For driving again while disqualified, the sentence was a further three months, for a total of six months.
Mr. Thompson had been disqualified from driving until November 2018. The magistrate further disqualified him until November 2020. When he is legally able to apply for a driver’s license, he will have to re-sit the test, she said.
For driving without insurance, a two-year period of disqualification was made to run concurrently.
The speeding offense [more than double the limit] incurred the maximum fine of $500, but the magistrate said she was not burdening the family any further.
Time in lieu of paying the fine was five weeks, which she said would run concurrently.
“This was not easy,” she told the defendant. “I am not happy doing this, but a clear message has to be sent. Whatever hardship has come on your family, it’s all on your head, nobody else’s.”
The magistrate warned him again – if he got caught driving after coming out of prison, he would be serving a very long sentence.