Vonda Pile seriously breached the position of trust placed in her as an attorney-at-law when she stole thousands of dollars belonging to a former client and for that she will spend three years in jail.
Madam Justice Pamela Beckles handed down the ruling this morning during a 15-minute sitting in the No. 5 Supreme Court on the grounds that the offence was “so serious” that only custodial sentence would suffice.
Today’s ruling came 94 days after Pile, an attorney with 26 years’ experience, was found guilty on a 7-2 majority verdict of stealing US$96,008.22 or BDS$191,416. 39 from former client Anstey King between April 29, 2009 and October 26, 2010. She was found not guilty of money laundering.
The funds were to be used to purchase a property at Maxwell, Christ Church. However, King, a Barbadian residing in New York subsequently requested a refund of his money after he realised that the land he was purchasing was not the one he had agreed to. King received a portion of the original amount sent but was still owed the mentioned sum.
“I don’t care what anyone says about attorneys . . . when you act for a client and a client refuses to pay and . . . you have funds holding for that client . . . [you] have to lien in on them,” Pile said in an address to the court back in July declaring that if it was the court’s position that “Ms Pile should do prison, then I will be doing prison on a principle, not moving from it.”
However, Justice Beckles stated today that the court could find “no mitigating factors” to the offence itself due to “the substantial amount of money involved. The judge said the breach of the position of trust held by Pile as an attorney-at-law to her client “the court views as a serious breach”.
The complainant, Anstey King, who attended the trial, was not present at today’s sitting which saw several lawyers and Pile’s family in attendance. Pile represented herself during the trial but attorneys Andrew Pilgrim, QC, and Marlon Gordon entered appearances on her behalf at the sentencing phase of the case. Acting Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Anthony Blackman and Principal Crown Counsel Krystal Delaney were the prosecutors.
“In your response after the allocutus was put to you . . . the court noted that you expressed no remorse and neither have you expressed a willingness to compensate the complainant. Having reviewed the above, the court is satisfied that the offence is so serious that it exceeds the threshold for a non-custodial sentence and fully deserving the imposition of a custodial sentence,” the judge said to Pile who sat in the dock with no visible emotion.
“Bearing in mind the need to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice . . . we need to send a strong message to society that such behaviour will not be tolerated and will be dealt with firmly. The court considers that three years is the appropriate starting point for a determination of your sentence,” the judge added.
But while taking into account that as an offender Pile previously had a clean criminal record and a “favourable” presentencing report showed that she was at a minimal risk of reoffending, the High Court judge stated that Pile was an attorney with 26 years’ experience and “therefore is mature enough to appreciate the consequences of your action and the effect it would have on your client and on yourself.”
The mitigating and aggravating factors she explained cancelled out each other and as such the sentenced would remain at three years and not be adjusted.
Beckles then pointed out that the convicted lawyer had spent 94 days on remand beginning June 4 until today’s date and as such would be credited for that time.
After being told that she would now serve the remaining two years and 271 days of her sentence at Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds Pile who had sat quietly during the proceedings got up, turned, smiled and raised her hands to her family who were sitting to the back of the court before she was escorted out by prison wardens.