Many persons who appear regularly before the Courts on criminal charges have been doing so since they were juveniles.
And most of them continue to create problems for the rest of society, despite everything the Court has done ranging from non-custodial sentences to custodial sentences.
The situation poses a challenge when the Court has to sentence such individuals.
On such case surfaced at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, and involved 37-year-old Renalto Bute of Edinboro, who pleaded guilty to stealing a brake pad valued at $57.50 from Richardson’s Motors at Arnos Vale, December 30 last year. The brakes pad was not recovered.
Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett noticed that Bute’s record seemed not to be up to date, and turning to the defendant, he asked, “Mr. Bute, let me ask you something. What else can the Court do for you?”
Bute replied, “I don’t understand.”
“You have become a regular. The Court has done everything for you and you have not changed. Looking at your record, you entered the Criminal Justice System many moons ago, when you were a boy, and that course of conduct was continued for your entire life,” the Magistrate explained.
Bute rebutted by telling the Magistrate that he was on drugs, and that he needed counselling.
But the Magistrate reminded him that, “Even though you say that you are on drugs in 2021, many moons ago you were before the Court for burglary.”
Burnett noted that Bute had a string of convictions for theft and burglary, dated as far back as his boyhood days.
“Even though you have been sent to prison on many occasions, that has not changed you, so sending you back to prison this morning is not likely to change you,” the Magistrate reasoned.
In relation to counselling, Burnett told him, “If you need counselling, why you don’t just walk off the street and get counselling. Why you wait until you commit a crime, and come before the Court to say you need counselling?”
Burnett contended that Bute knew exactly what he was doing.
At that point, Prosecutor Renrick Cato told the Court that when he became involved in the Court process in 2000, Bute was before the Courts then. He was not able then to pay a fine or compensation.
“These guys are not working, and are making the lives of others a living hell,” Burnett said, adding that perhaps it is because they are not working why they make the lives of others miserable.
“It happens so often in this Court. Persons who are committing crimes are unemployed, or have very little or no resources. Perhaps if they had resources, crime may not be attractive to them,” the Magistrate commented.
“Instead of sending them to prison, I wish I could have done something else, because there is work outside to be done. Let them work hard and receive zero dollars,” he suggested.
“Mr. Bute, I don’t know what else to do with you,” Burnett pondered.
And in responding to what some people might think is a simple undertaking, Magistrate Burnett declared, “Sentencing is a very difficult exercise to embark upon.”
When the Magistrate asked the Sales Provider of Richardson’s who was at hand, if the Company would be willing to employ Bute, she said no, because the security cameras had picked up images of him “sculking around the area” prior to the incident.
“The reason why some of these guys keep going back to prison is because from the time they go in, no one is willing to employ them,” the Magistrate deduced.
Bute told the Magistrate that he operated a cart sometimes, and asked the Magistrate to allow him time to pay back the $57.50. The Magistrate gave him the opportunity to do so.
He was ordered to pay the compensation by May 21, or go to prison for two months.
Bute was also sentenced to two months, but the four months he had already spent on remand would be taken into account. He was granted bail in his own recognizance on another charge of theft on condition that he report to the Central Police Station on Mondays and Fridays, until that matter is disposed of.