Cop sliced for $100

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Bar­bara Gayle Jus­tice Co­or­di­na­tor

ASLICE of cheese val­ued at a lit­tle more than $100 has cost a po­lice­woman her job and given the Court of Ap­peal the chance to rule on whether the act of shoplift­ing is done only when a per­son leaves an es­tab­lish­ment with­out pay­ing for the goods.

“This is re­ally fright­en­ing and I re­ally feel sad to know that a slice of cheese could be so tempt­ing that my col­league could end up in this em­bar­rass­ing sit­u­a­tion,” one mem­ber of the po­lice force told The Sun­day Gleaner af­ter news broke that the po­lice­woman had lost her ap­peal against her con­vic­tion for sim­ple lar­ceny.

The case will now be used as a prece­dent as the Court of Ap­peal thor­oughly re­searched sev­eral English cases and re­viewed the Lar­ceny Act be­fore de­cid­ing that the po­lice­woman’s con­vic­tion should not be over­turned.

It was once widely held that the cus­tomer had to exit the build­ing be­fore he or she could be ac­costed for stolen items, but in its rul­ing the Court of Ap­peal held that it is not so.

AL­LEGED IN­CI­DENT

Geor­gette Tyndale was a mem­ber of the Ja­maica Con­stab­u­lary Force in March 2012 when she went to a su­per­mar­ket in Man­dev­ille, Manch­ester, and placed the slice of cheese in her hand­bag.

She had picked up other items, placed them in a bas­ket, which she took to the cashier’s counter and cashed them. Af­ter she cashed the goods, the as­sis­tant man­ager of the su­per­mar­ket went up to her and in­formed her that she was seen putting the piece of cheese in her hand­bag.

It is re­ported that Tyndale said it must have dropped in her hand­bag when she was tak­ing out money.

How­ever, when she was in­ter­viewed by the po­lice she gave a dif­fer­ent story.

Tyndale re­port­edly told the po­lice that the cheese must have fallen into her hand­bag when she was plac­ing some money in it.

She was charged with sim­ple lar­ceny and at the trial in the Manch­ester Parish Court in 2012, ev­i­dence was given that she first took the piece of cheese and placed it be­tween two wa­ter bot­tles on a shelf.

A few min­utes later she re­turned, took up the piece of cheese and placed it in her hand­bag.

The po­lice­woman then cashed some items and did not pay for the cheese. She was on her way out of the su­per­mar­ket when she was ac­costed by the as­sis­tant man­ager.

TYNDALE’S AC­COUNT

In her de­fence, Tyndale said she was at the cashier’s counter wait­ing for her change when the as­sis­tant man­ager spoke to her about the cheese in her hand­bag. She said she told him it was a gen­uine mis­take and of­fered to pay for it, but he re­fused.

Parish judge Oswald Burchen­son found her guilty of sim­ple lar­ceny and placed her on pro­ba­tion for two years.

At­tor­ney-at-law Nor­man God­frey, who rep­re­sented Tyndale, filed sev­eral grounds of ap­peal while con­tend­ing that the judge failed to prop­erly and ad­e­quately as­sess the ev­i­dence ad­duced by the prose­cu­tion.

God­frey ar­gued that the judge erred when he held that “the in­ten­tion of the ac­cused is suf­fi­ciently man­i­fested on the ev­i­dence of hav­ing no in­ten­tion to pur­chase the ar­ti­cle when she placed it in her hand­bag and did not have to pass the cashier’s cage to com­mit the of­fence”.

IN­CON­SIS­TENT MA­TE­RIAL

The judge said Tyndale’s ac­count of how the piece of cheese came to be in her hand­bag “is not only con­flict­ing but flies in the face of rea­son­ing”.

God­frey sub­mit­ted that al­though it was recog­nised that un­der cer­tain cir­cum­stances the lar­ceny could have taken place be­fore Tyndale passed the check­out counter, that was not the case ad­vanced by the prose­cu­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to God­frey, there was ma­te­rial in­con­sis­tency as to the point where she was ac­costed.

He noted that Tyndale was not deny­ing that she did not pay for the cheese, but it was for the judge to make a de­ter­mi­na­tion whether or not she had left the cashier’s sta­tion when she was ac­costed, be­cause that would go to the ques­tion as to whether the pur­chase was com­plete.

The at­tor­ney fur­ther ar­gued that in a case of lar­ceny, in­tent and as­porta­tion were im­por­tant ingredients to the of­fence.

God­frey said based on the com­ments the judge made, the act of lar­ceny was com­plete at the point where she placed the cheese in her hand­bag. It showed that the judge did not take into ac­count the ques­tion of as­porta­tion.

But Crown Coun­sel Leighton Mor­ris asked the court not to over­turn the con­vic­tion be­cause the ac­tus reus (tak­ing the cheese) and the mens rea (plac­ing the cheese in the bag and not pay­ing for it) were present and so the crime was com­plete.

Pres­i­dent of the Court of Ap­peal Jus­tice Den­nis Mor­ri­son, Jus­tice Paulette Wil­liams and Jus­tice Carol Ed­wards, in dis­miss­ing the ap­peal, said the goods re­main the prop­erty of the owner of the su­per­mar­ket un­til “the price is paid, and it is only then that the prop­erty in the goods passes to the shop­per.

“In our view, in or­der for the shop­per to be found guilty of steal­ing from a self-serve store such as a su­per­mar­ket un­der the Lar­ceny Act, the shop­per must have taken away and car­ried away the goods with­out the con­sent of the owner with a dis­hon­est in­tent to per­ma­nently de­prive the owner of it at the time of tak­ing.”

The judges said the “mere re­moval of goods from the shelf was not suf­fi­cient to amount to as­porta­tion as it was done un­der lim­ited per­mis­sion by the pro­pri­etor for the pur­pose of the trans­ac­tion at the cashier, and the crime is only com­plete where, af­ter the li­cence ter­mi­nates at the point of of­fer and ac­cep­tance, that is, at the cashier sta­tion, the shop­per, with in­tent to steal, de­lib­er­ately fails to ten­der pay­ment for the goods”.

They also found that the parish judge adopted the cor­rect view and there was suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence on which he could have found that Tyndale was guilty of the charge of lar­ceny.

Po­lice­woman loses job as sim­ply-lar­ceny ap­peal fails

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