Court gets tougher on acts against tourists-‘Drug addiction not acceptable excuse to steal’


13-September-2012

 

Magistrate Adeline

He told convict Patrick Sedgwick that a theft against a visitor is in effect is an act against the individual and also the country’s tourism industry which we all directly or indirectly depend on.

“People who steal from tourists therefore, should be given no sympathy at all because their crimes impact on the lives of our whole nation.
 
“Zot pe kas sa lanmen ki fer nou tou dibyen,” he said, as he jailed Sedgwick to five years in prison.

“People who are convicted for committing those serious offences against tourists should not therefore be surprised when they are given long custodial sentences by the courts because to achieve justice their punishment must fit their crime, and indeed, be proportionate to the impact that their crime has on the lives of the entire nation.

27-year-old Sedgwick of Union Vale was convicted of stealing  –  “a felony which carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years under the penal code”.

Defence lawyer Nichol Gabriel had argued Sedgwick was a remorseful, first time offender, used no violence when he stole, and cooperated with the police during investigations.

But Mr Adeline said the offence was very serious:

“It is even more serious when it is committed against visitors who come to our shores to quietly enjoy the natural beauty of our islands, and to inject into the country’s economy foreign currencies which our import-dependent country needs.

When an offence is committed against tourists therefore, it carries with it an aggravating feature,” he said.

Mr Adeline said drug addiction is not a valid mitigating factor for theft.

“I have heard several reasons – sometimes from defence counsels – why few individuals in this country chose to steal whether from locals or tourists depriving them of their property.

  One of those reasons is that the offender has a drug addiction. Addiction is an illness just like any other. When one is ill he seeks treatment to cure his illness.

 One who has a drug addiction needs to find help to cure his addiction.  He needs to be treated.  He cannot opt to steal from people to get money to buy drugs in order to satisfy his addiction.

  This is an illegal and illegitimate way of getting money.

“There cannot therefore be an acceptable excuse, and there cannot, indeed, be any acceptable excuse for one to resort to criminal activities to obtain money when there are legal and legitimate options available, one of which, is to find a job and generate an earning.

  Confronted with the rapid increase in the number of crimes in this country, members of the public expect our courts to meet their legitimate expectations when it comes to dispensing justice.

  This is because courts have exclusive jurisdiction in terms of monopoly of the use of legitimate judicial power in dispensing justice.

 They expect us to do what the law allows us to do to protect our society,” said Mr Adeline.

There has been community outcry about light sentences meted out by courts in cases of theft and President James Michel has repeatedly urged the judiciary to be strict.

The attorney general’s chambers have petitioned the Supreme Court which is revising over 40 cases where magistrates have in the past given “illegal sentences” which have been lower than provided for by the law.

The National Assembly has on its part revised laws making sentences for crimes stiffer, passing laws which, for example, provide for sentences to run consecutively rather than concurrently as was the case earlier.

“As courts, our inclination is to act with restraint fully aware that over the years public confidence in our criminal justice system has eroded.  In a country where the rule of law prevails, perpetrators of crimes of this nature cannot be expected to get away with their crimes.

 They cannot be allowed to ruin the lives of thousands of people without being brought to justice and face the full force of justice,” said Mr Adeline on Monday.

In the case of Sedgwick, Mr Adeline said the convict had planned his crime in advance.

“He had a mission to steal and execute his plan as he made his journey from Union Vale to the Tea Tavern at Sans Soucis.

“He told a police officer that he was the son of the owner of the Tea Tavern when he was not and that he works for a resort on another island, serving as a part-time tour guide and that he had taken a group of clients to the Mission Lodge.”

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