EDITORIAL – Magistrate hits the mark on seriousness of illegal motorbiking

If Magistrate Valdis Foldats ever tires of presiding over court matters, perhaps we could persuade him to exchange his robe and wig for pen and ink – and to become an editorial writer for the Compass.

Judging by his comments concluding a recent case against a rogue motorbiker, Mr. Foldats is as good at composing sentences as he is at handing down sentences.

The case in question involved one Alvin Shaquille Ebanks, who: 1) stole a motorcycle, 2) led police on a 30-minute pursuit, 3) pulled wheelies and stood on the seat of the motorcycle while trying to make his getaway, and 4) used his cellphone to record the events while they unfolded – making him the star, stuntman and director of this incredibly dangerous extended chase scene.

When law enforcement officers (supported by the police helicopter) finally caught up with Mr. Ebanks, he ditched the motorcycle in the bushes and fled into a West Bay store. He locked himself in a bathroom, and then attempted to flee one more time – shoving a police officer into shelves of produce before he was subdued with pepper spray and arrested, according to the prosecution.

Summary Court Magistrate Foldats sentenced Mr. Ebanks (who had pleaded guilty) to one year in prison for multiple offenses, while suggesting that if the prosecution had elected to take the case to Grand Court, Mr. Ebanks may have received a longer sentence than the one-year maximum for dangerous driving allowed in Summary Court.

Mr. Foldats added that the Legislative Assembly may want to review sentencing guidelines for dangerous driving in light of the threat posed by rogue bikers, whom he described as a “menace to the public.”

He said, “I imagine the legislators weren’t aware of motorcycle grandstanding when they put those [sentencing guidelines] in place.”

(We wonder whether our elected legislators are aware that rogue bikers are a “menace to the public.” We’ve said it before, and now a magistrate has said it, but we’ve never heard it said, publicly, from a politician.)

When Mr. Ebanks’s attorney suggested that his client – who had previous convictions for similar offenses – was apparently a skilled rider who had never actually caused an accident, Mr. Foldats interjected: “I am going to put that down to luck. All you have to have is somebody crossing the street at the wrong time and someone standing on their seat is not in a position to do the right thing.”

It is perhaps rare for a court of law to align so precisely with the court of public opinion. This particularly egregious case is a microcosm of the island’s serious issue of reckless motorbiking – behavior which is obnoxious, dangerous, illegal and, at its worst, a blatant display of disdain for police and disregard for the concepts of public safety and law and order.

As in any other prevalent criminal activity, the surest (and likely only) way to put a stop to illegal motorbiking is for police to make arrests and collect evidence, for prosecutors to build and argue strong cases, and for courts to acquit or convict according to the merits of each case – in a swift and efficient manner.

In this case, we praise police for their actions, and we commend Magistrate Foldats for utilizing the tools at his disposal. We urge lawmakers to heed Mr. Foldats’s counsel, and to review sentencing guidelines in the context of the clear and present danger posed by illegal motorbiking.

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