A local magistrate is expressing what he called very, very grave concern over the kind of criminal techniques being imported into Barbados, particularly by non-nationals.
District “D” Magistrate Ian Weekes made his feelings known this afternoon, while considering what sentence he should impose on two Colombians who pleaded guilty before him for burglary of a St Thomas home on January 22 this year.
What caused the ire of Magistrate Weekes was evidence that revealed the accused men –– Santiago Prad Vieda and David Mauricio Botero-Montes –– shifted some of the CCTV cameras when they entered the residence. He disagreed with the men’s attorney-at-law Allan Carter that the two visitors were not professionals.
“These two have admitted to coming to Barbados as guests and breached the kindness and goodwill of Barbadians. So you [Carter] are saying in the face of a major crime, which would suggest a type of crime or modes which Barbados are not yet famous for, such as switching of cameras . . . . Society will have to be very concerned about the levels of criminal techniques being imported into our dear beautiful land,” declared the judicial officer.
Weekes also did not support the defence attorney’s argument that his clients should not be sent to prison, simply because they had pleaded guilty, cooperated with the police and had no previous convictions in Barbados.
“I cannot see that. There is a major problem with burglary in this country. I cannot remotely consider some of your options. Yes, they cooperated with the police; pleaded guilty; but I have to be cognizant of the message to be sent,” added the magistrate.
When the men’s lawyer introduced the notion of human rights and the “unequal” treatment [of possible imprisonment] likely to be meted out to the accused because they are non-nationals, the magistrate informed him this submission failed in its merit due to the grave nature of the crime.
“I can’t go in the US and commit a crime and they send me back. I am gravely concerned the kind of technique used in this case. They [two Colombians] must be seen to be experts in this kind of operation,” declared Weekes.
While the court’s presiding officer appeared bent on sentencing the accused to jail, he was, however, persuaded by their counsel to consider other mitigating circumstances such as them being first-timers, their guilty plea, cooperating with the police and even having children back home.
As a result, he ordered a pre-sentencing report on the men and remanded them to return before him on March 6.
Speaking through interpreter Margo Tuach, the Colombians asked the court to explain what was a pre-sentencing report.
He told them it was information on their background which could be ascertained from the local Probation Department, the FBI, Interpol and other agencies, that would determine the kind of sentence he would impose on them when they reappear before him.
Montes, 26, a university student and Santiago, 28, a barman, who were residing at Kirtons, St Philip, on holiday, addressed the court and made an impassioned apology to the tribunal and the people of Barbados for their crime.
“We ask for forgiveness. It was a real error. We were not thinking . . . at the time of the consequences and are very sorry; we are willing to cooperate. In an effort to correct our mistake, we ask forgiveness of the magistrate and people of Barbados for the mistake we have made,” submitted the accused.