Stephanie Marie Andrea Benn will get to spend Christmas with her two young children and ailing grandmother after all.
When she returned to the District ‘C’ Magistrates’ Court today for sentencing after having her bail revoked by Chief Magistrate Christopher Birch two weeks ago, he ordered a pre-sentencing report and allowed her previous bail conditions to be restored.
On her previous court appearance on November 27, 2018, the 27-year-old Benn of No. 57 Vauxhall, Gardens, Christ Church pleaded guilty to engaging in money laundering, by processing $762, which were the proceeds of crime.
She also admitted to purchasing a cellphone valued $549 using the proceeds of crime, as well as purchasing a watch, fridge and stove, which had a total value $3295.29.
In his submission, attorney-at-law Kenny Best who appeared on behalf of Benn, asked the court to “show mercy” to the unemployed mother of two young children aged seven and three, as she had no previous convictions.
He admitted that while she had only recently decided to throw herself at the mercy of the court, her involvement in the crimes committed was limited.
“Her involvement was by coincidence, being the girlfriend of one of the accused,” Best argued.
“Since she has been incarcerated her sick grandmother has had to take care of the three-year-old and I would ask the court to allow this single mother the opportunity to take care of her children.
“All is not lost. I’m asking for her to be given an opportunity to take stock of her life for the betterment of herself and her two offspring. Too often people make decisions that offset their offspring down the road,” the lawyer added.
Best contended that his client had gotten herself involved with the wrong crowd.
“Sometimes people associate themselves with the wrong set of people, who then turn around and leave them to fend for themselves. We shouldn’t throw this young lady to the wolves. I’m asking the court to give her an opportunity to turn her life around,” he said.
After pondering for a brief while, Magistrate Birch told Best while he agreed with some of his arguments, there were several factors which did not weigh in his client’s favour.
“I heard you with great interest and I understand where you are coming from, such as the fact that this is her first offence and she is a mother of two. But the callousness and the shamelessness with which she exposed the proceeds of a violent crime on social media for all to see cannot be ignored,” Birch said.
“Also, it took her four years to admit guilt. If she had done so initially, the full mercy of the court would have been extended to her. When the charges were read to her on November 17, 2014, she had every right to clear her conscience then.”
And while the Chief Magistrate acknowledged that a custodial sentence was not likely once a favourable pre-sentencing report was presented, he cautioned that Benn would more likely than not have to pay a substantial fine.
“I will tell you from now counsel, that while a custodial sentence will most likely not be imposed in light of a favourable pre-sentencing report, I cannot promise that a significant financial penalty will not be imposed,” Birch said.
“She could have been here for something much worse.”
Benn will return to court on February 8, 2019, when the report is expected to be available.