Atrociously lenient jail term

Guyana Chronicle
January 22, 2000

ITEM: Monday January 17, 2000, Guyana Chronicle - `Jail for `Future Feelings'. A story about a man jailed for one year for stealing a toilet bowl and other house fittings. The items stolen cost $26,000.

Item: Friday January 14, 2000, Guyana Chronicle - `Jewellery thief jailed...'. A story about a man who went into a neighbour's house to use her telephone, hid there and swiped jewellery worth $155,000 when she went out. He is jailed for one year.

Item: Friday January 21, 2000, Guyana Chronicle - `Thief jailed...'. A story about a man jailed for six months for burglary and simple larceny.

Item: Friday January 21, 2000, Guyana Chronicle - `Guns in container accused freed, other jailed':

"Nandkumar Bhudan also known as John Bhudan, who took the rap for the guns and ammunition found in a container on a city wharf late last year, will spend one year in jail for the importation and another offence.

"His co-defendant, Peter Morgan, proprietor of Morgan's Auto Sales at 34 Oleander Gardens, East Coast Demerara, was yesterday discharged by Chief Magistrate Paul Fung-A-Fat after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) withdrew against him."

Question: what's the rationale for sentencing?

A man admits to illegally shipping in a cache of guns and ammunition and is jailed for one year.

Another man steals a toilet bowl and other house fittings and gets a one-year jail term.

A layman could be forgiven for thinking, from the sentencing in the two cases, that both offences are on the same level of gravity - stealing a toilet bowl and shipping in arms and ammunition are crimes that carry the same jail terms.

Sentencing is usually made to fit the crime and to act as a deterrent against others following a similar course.

So it would seem in this case that running off with a toilet bowl and secreting guns and ammunition in a vehicle in a container and shipping it from Miami without Customs and other officials there and here knowing are on the same level in a Guyana court.

All a man caught here running away with someone else's toilet bowl has to tell the court is that he has a licence to do the same thing in another country and did not know he had to get a licence to do the same here.

For the lapse, he will have to spend a year in jail, just like the man who did not realise he needed a licence to ship in guns and ammunition here because he thought his licence for that in the United States also covered him for Guyana.

Maybe that's how they move legal shipments of guns and ammunition in the U.S. - concealing them in food boxes under the seats of vehicles in shipping containers.

Given this sentencing situation, we wonder what Home Affairs Minister, Mr Ronald Gajraj is getting himself so worked up about.

The minister on a recent GTV 11 programme, said:

"Very often we hear complaints that we need to change the law and impose stiffer penalties in our legislation, but more often than not, we do not hear criticisms levelled against the courts for not dealing with the matters in a manner according to law.

"A man is charged with dangerous driving, he pleads guilty, goes to court and he is fined $2,000 and goes his way smiling when the law stipulates a fine of not less than $25, he goes out on the road, feels like a road hog and tries to make back his $25,000."

Next case, please.

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