Acting Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Anthony Blackman believes that the case involving convicted attorney Vonda Pile has the “potential to bring the criminal justice system into disrepute, if it is not handled properly”.
Blackman made the comment in the No. 5 Supreme Court today as he along with Principal Crown Counsel Krystal Delaney put forward their sentencing submissions before Madam Justice Pamela Beckles.
Back in June, a jury found Pile guilty of stealing $191,416. 39 belonging to her former client Anstey King between April 29, 2009 and October 26, 2010. But they found her not guilty of laundering the money.
Blackman submitted that the offence was a serious one in which the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors especially when one looks at the relationship between Pile and King.
“These circumstances clearly demonstrate that there was a breach of trust, a serious breach of trust. And there is no secret, as it came out in the trial, that there are parallel proceedings in another place in relation to other matters along this same line.”
The acting deputy DPP went on to say that this was an extremely substantial aggravating factor which could also have an impact on how persons viewed the legal profession.
“I am not saying that because of that, Ms Pile should be used as an example and that the kitchen sink… should be thrown at her.
“We all live in a small society and very often we hear persons who reside outside of [this jurisdiction] make the comment that we cannot send money home for lawyers to do things for us because they are crooked.
“We hear that all the time and when such statements are made they don’t say lawyer A or lawyer B they say lawyers, so we are all painted with the same brush,” Blackman explained.
Having put forward the mitigating and aggravating factors of the offence and of the offender the Crown’s prosecutor submitted that an appropriate starting point for sentencing “in this particular case” should be four years. We are submitting that even if you consider the breach of trust, that is such a powerful aggravating factor, that careful consideration and application will certainly invite this court to increase from four years up to five years,” said Blackman who admitted that in the end it was up to the court to decide on the sentence or punishment.
But he made it clear that one of the aims of sentencing was to maintain public confidence in the judicial system.
“It is unfortunate that the now convicted person is a member of our Bar, extremely unfortunate.
“But at the same time I think that the court must be consistent in its approach to sentencing because we have to be conscious as to what message we are going to send. If you are going to set a precedence you must consider the effects of that precedence,” he said even as he served notice of the Crown’s intention to file an application “in another place in relation to confiscation” under the new legislation.
But in their sentencing submissions Queen’s Counsel Andrew Pilgrim and attorney-at-law Marlon Gordon, who are representing Pile suggested that “a punishment was inherent in the conviction which was given by the jury” in this matter.
Pilgrim explained that he did not want to take away the circumstances of the complainant but the case represented “quite possibly the end of the legal career of Ms Vonda Pile”.
He submitted that the court had several options that it could consider in sentencing such as a suspended sentence; a compensation order subject to which if one fails to make such payment they can serve a sentence or the court was also entitled to impose a fine or a sentence that is not suspended.
Pilgrim however revealed that the funds in question, which “began as what should be considered as a normal transaction, which became derailed after there was, an error” were in an account held by Pile.
“It does not seem to have been in dispute that those funds remain in an account held by Ms Pile. This is a case in which… Ms Pile appears to be standing on a principle that she will not be moved from but the point is the money is still there,” he said.
“This is a case in which it is fair to say that Ms Pile is remorseless as to the guilty finding of the jury but she herself wishes that this matter could have been resolved in a way that would be satisfactory to all parties many years ago,” the defence attorney stated further adding that based on all reports furnished to the court Pile was at the bottom of whatever sentencing scale that the court was inclined to consider.
“If this court is moved that only incarceration can answer… the conviction in this matter then the range is between the period of two and a half to three years.
“I am inviting this court to consider all options that can lead to non incarceration,” Pilgrim said.
Pile will return before Madam Justice Pamela Beckles on September 5 for sentencing.