Disgraced attorney-at-law Ernest Winston Jackman, who a High Court judge said had “significantly” breached the trust between himself and a former client he stole over half a million dollars from, will spend the next six years in prison.
The sentence was imposed by Madame Justice Pamela Beckles on the 67-year-old for theft as well as money laundering after his promise to repay the money by Wednesday did not materialise.
When Jackman last appeared before the judge in the No. 5 Supreme Court earlier this month, his sentencing was delayed by two weeks, at his request, to allow him time to repay the over $286 000 still owed to John Huggins.
However, when asked if the funds had been paid, Huggins’ attorney Alrick Scott, KC, told the court his client had received none of the outstanding money.
Jackman was in May this year found guilty of stealing $678 414.75 from HEJ Limited, of which Huggins was the principal shareholder and managing director, between June 23, 2006, and March 5, 2007. He was also convicted of engaging in money laundering by disposing of the sum between June 23, 2006, and October 18, 2011.
In handing down her sentence on Wednesday, Justice Beckles told Jackman his actions had resulted in a “significant breach of trust”.
“It has been said that the relationship between client and attorney is one of trust, binding an attorney to the utmost good faith in dealing with his client. In the discharge of that trust, an attorney must act with complete fairness, honour, honesty, loyalty and fidelity in all his dealings with his client. An attorney is held to strict accountability for the performance and observance of those professional duties, and for breach and violation thereof the attorney must be held liable or accountable.
“Mr Jackman, you have breached that trust significantly and have failed in the handling of your client’s affairs and for that, you must be held accountable,” the judge told the convicted lawyer moments before handing down her sentence.
“Your promises to repay the complainant the balance of his money has not borne fruit in whole or in part. This must have caused the elderly complainant further anguish as he has been waiting for 15 years already.”
Justice Beckles said she believed eight years was an appropriate starting point for both offences.
She added that based on the mitigating factors – that Jackman had shown genuine remorse, his clean criminal record, good character, favourable pre-sentencing report, the fact he had been assessed as having a low risk of reoffending, and the favourable testimony from his character witness – the term would be adjusted downwards by one year, to seven years.
Justice Beckles said the 214 days that Jackman had spent on remand would also be subtracted, leaving him to serve a remaining six years, 151 days at Dodds Prison.
“This term of imprisonment is sufficient to warn publicly of the gravity of the offences and to act as a deterrent to potential offenders,” the judge said, adding that there was a need to restore public confidence.
Jackman, who was dressed immaculately in a grey suit, white shirt and maroon and red tie, sat in the dock taking copious notes throughout the proceedings and showed no emotion as the sentence was delivered.
The court heard during the trial that Huggins had retained Jackman’s services in selling four townhouses. The properties were sold and Huggins received all the money from the sale of three but only a portion from the fourth.
Jackman, who told the court he had invested the money in a venture that fell through, testified that he had repaid Huggins $392 000 and planned to pay the balance.
In his victim impact sentence, the now 85-year-old Huggins said he had planned to use the money from the sale of the condominium for his retirement.
He said while he looked forward to eventually receiving all his money, he hoped Jackman would be given a “lengthy period of imprisonment”.