Former civil servant Trisha Marissa Jackson was sentenced on Monday to 15 months immediate imprisonment for theft, false accounting and obtaining property by deception.
Total value of cash and goods concerned was over $30,000. No compensation was ordered, given the defendant’s financial situation.
Ms. Jackson, 39, had pleaded guilty on a previous occasion and Magistrate Valdis Foldats gave her full one-third discounts, noting that she had saved the court time and the expense of holding a trial. He also cited the “principle of totality,” saying the final sentence was not just adding up numbers of months – it had to be just and proportionate.
Ms. Jackson had been employed as facilities administrator between 2011 and 2016. She pleaded guilty to stealing a total of $18,890 from the Cayman Islands Government over that period. The money had been paid to her in cash for rental of the South Sound Community Centre by a parent/toddler group that met on a weekly basis.
The defendant issued receipts each time, but they were false and the monies were never deposited with any government account. Fortunately, as Crown counsel Toyin Salako observed on an earlier occasion, the volunteer with the playgroup had saved all of the receipts and was able to produce them when the rental was questioned in 2017.
The obtaining of property by deception involved issuing false invoices for $11,924.68 worth of goods from Kirk Office Supply between May and October 2013.
Both sets of offending were breaches of trust, the magistrate emphasized. Ms. Jackson was “the face of government” to the volunteer who had paid the community center rent.
“One can only imagine the betrayal the parents felt,” the magistrate commented. “Confidence in the civil service is undermined when civil servants abuse their position.”
He added that the overwhelming number of civil servants do discharge their duties faithfully.
In addition to the financial loss, other harm caused included the inconvenience to others and the distress of co-workers.
An important aggravating feature was the continuous course of deceit Ms. Jackson had engaged in – it was not a single lapse of judgment, the magistrate pointed out.
Mitigation by defense attorney Crister Brady, which was cited in a social inquiry report, included the fact that the defendant had no previous convictions, was remorseful, and had cooperated in the preparation of the report by being open and candid. She expressed the desire to pay the money back but lacked the means to do so.
Her offending began after things became “financially challenging and chaotic” for her because of family responsibilities. The magistrate said there was no indication of any lavish lifestyle or purchase of any luxury goods. On the other hand, many people must deal with financial pressures and they do not resort to dishonesty, he observed.
Immediate imprisonment was necessary so that others are deterred from similar offending, particularly those in the civil service, the magistrate indicated.
The 15-month sentence he was passing was not overly harsh, but was the shortest term commensurate with the seriousness of the case.
For the theft of money, the sentence was 12 months; for the related false accounting, 12 months concurrent; for obtaining property by deception, three months consecutive (reduced from 10 months because of totality); for the related false accounting, 10 months concurrent.