Justice Diana Insanally last week sentenced an armed robbery convict to five years imprisonment after a probation report she had requested was presented at the Berbice Assizes.
Orin Burnett, 24, had pleaded guilty to robbing and assaulting Corentyne resident Joseph Ramjeet Singh. He had appeared before the judge last month and was advised to retain counsel.
In his report, Senior Probation and Social Services Officer Forbes Munroe said, the convict is the fourth of four children born to Ingrid Adams, a vendor of the Skeldon Market. His father was Carl Burnett now deceased, whom he never knew since he was of a tender age when his father died.
His mother, the sole bread winner of the family, was never married.
The convict, who has poor literacy skills left the then Skeldon Primary School at level (grade) six, owing to poor parental control. He took to the streets, working at the Corentyne River wharf loading and off-loading vessels and as an errand boy for various market vendors and stallholders.
Burnett, by his own admission, was introduced to marijuana at a very young age. He reportedly used it “to ease his stress and clear his mind”. And so began a period of constant conflict with members of his household especially his older sisters. He also fell foul of the law and was convicted and imprisoned on two occasions for robbery and assaulting a peace officer and resisting arrest.
Despite Burnett’s troubled childhood, however, Munroe said that as an adult he should have used his childhood experiences and even his previous convictions to seek more socially acceptable forms of behaviour.
The probation officer told the court that Burnett must be held accountable for his behaviour and the consequences thereof.
In a plea of mitigation, attorney-at-law Charrandas Persaud revealed that his client had been convicted of possession of marijuana and had only completed serving an eight-month sentence, when the next month, he was charged with the current offence.
The lawyer urged the court to take note of the fact that his client had previously denied committing the offence and the judge to consider why he had subsequently pleaded guilty.
“Orin Burnett is a victim of a society that is lacking,” the lawyer said. “He grew up under the care of his single-parent mother, and hardly knew his father. Having done society its first wrong, he was presented with no form of rehabilitation as none is offered at the prisons, but instead they are tortured to the bones. If there was some sort of guidance, certainly Burnett, a month after he served time would not have been rearrested for another offence.”
The lawyer said his client had thrown himself at the mercy of the court and was pleading for leniency. Persaud also informed the judge that Burnett had spent 20 months incarcerated awaiting trial as bail had been denied.
Responding, State Counsel Ganesh Hira said the prosecution had conceded when the accused had accepted to plead guilty. He said, too, that the state accepted that when the accused was told of the allegation, he responded, “it was not me,” and at the confrontation, he again denied committing the crime.
“The accused is denying any involvement, but nonetheless is pleading guilty,” Hira said. “The state cannot in a good conscience ask the court to proceed any further with this matter unless the accused restates his position. As for now I will ask the court to record a plea of not guilty and allow a trial to proceed.”
However, Persaud, jumping quickly to his feet, said the defence accepts that the accused is guilty as stated in his plea.
According to the defence lawyer, “‘I was simply offering this court the reason why the accused took the stand and entered the plea of guilty, and that these events be considered in sentencing.
Hira then informed the court that while the defence had stated that he had denied the allegation, the state’s position was that the accused had accepted culpability and the court was free to pass sentencing.
Justice Insanally, in handing down sentence, told Burnett that he seemed to be the only member of his family who had chosen a life of crime. “Your family seemed to be able to battle for themselves… But you chose a different route. This is a serious offence. I sentence you to five years imprisonment.”
According to the facts of the case, on October 20, 2007, around 2 am, Joseph Ramjeet Singh was awakened by a noise coming from a room in his house. He put on the hall light and went to the bedroom where the sound emanated, and as he opened the door, Burnett jumped out, held his neck and began punching him as he fell to the floor.
As the intruder picked him up from his prone position, Ramjeet Singh noticed that he was armed with a gun.
Hira said the robber asked and was taken to the bedroom of the complainant where he ransacked a wardrobe and removed $150,000 and four wristwatches valued $8,000. Hira said that $50,000 of the stolen sum had belonged to the Corriverton Lion’s Club.
The convict then asked for the keys to Ramjeet Singh’s backdoor, and was told that the exit had bars, not keys. Ramjeet Singh the unlocked the door and the bandit escaped.
According to Hira, investigations revealed that the victim’s head was swollen, and the mesh on the eastern window appeared to have been cut. Outside Ramjeet Singh’s home two barrels were stacked one on top the other, indicating how the convict had gained entry.