Teen gets 16 months for part in beach mugging

| 16/12/2011

barefoot beach.JPG(CNS): A teenager who was convicted of robbery purely because he gave himself up and made a full and frank disclosure to the police was treated with leniency by a judge on Friday as he pointed to several mitigating factors in the teen’s favour. Nineteen-year-old Michael McLaughlin from East End was sentenced to 16 months in prison for his part in a mugging which took place on Barefoot Beach last February.  In his ruling Justice Alex Henderson said the robbery was unplanned and opportunistic, that McLaughlin had played only a peripheral part, he had given himself up and pleaded guilty, as well as showing genuine remorse for the crime.

The judge noted, however, that the case still called for a custodial sentence because despite the mitigating factors the mugging was perpetrated on tourists. Justice Henderson noted the importance of tourism to the economy and the willingness of visitors to come to the Cayman Islands depended on the perceptions of safety. Offences of this nature, the judge indicated, had the very considerable potential to harm the tourism sector.

Although there were two other men involved in the robbery of the two visitors on the secluded beach in East End, the case against McLaughlin’s co-defendants who both pleaded not guilty collapsed due to a lack of evidence. In contrast, McLaughlin, after discussions with his grandmother had gone back  to the police and handed himself in and confessed to his part in the crime. The judge noted that had he not done so he would not have been convicted as there was no evidence against him except that confession.

The court heard how McLaughlin had been led astray by the others in the robbery and had taken part in the opportunistic mugging as once it started he did not want his peers “to think he was soft”. After the event, however, he recognised the seriousness of the crime and made a decision to turn his life around.

During the sentencing hearing it was revealed that the teenager did not have the best start in life. His father spent considerable time in jail as a result of dealing in drugs. As a child McLaughlin watched his father sell ganja and cocaine and was even given drugs by his father, who claimed he would rather give his child ganja than have him buy it on the street.

The judge found that during the robbery McLaughlin had not used a weapon or used force or threats against the victims nor was he responsible for smashing the visitor’s rental car window as the robbers left the scene. However, the judge noted that he had still willingly participated in the crime and received $5 for his share of the booty, which ended up being only $20 in cash and a camera stolen from the car. McLaughlin admitted to driving the car on the day of the robbery but he said the offence was not planned and he was shocked when one of the men he was with approached the man on the beach and demanded money.

The court heard that since the teen has been on remand he has applied himself to studying and is genuinely seeking the opportunity to turn his life around. James Stenning, his defence attorney, said the crime was a life changing moment for his client. He said it was important to make it one for the better as he urged the judge to make the sentence as short as possible to ensure his client had a chance of rehabilitation outside the system rather than being sucked into a life of crime.

The judge said that the teen’s confession in this case was of particular importance because if he had not chosen to be honest about his culpability, he would almost certainly not have been convicted.

McLaughlin had also written a four page letter to the court setting out his regrets and, more importantly, his aims to turn his life around and the steps he plans to take to rehabilitate himself.

Given all of the circumstances and using the sentencing guidelines, the judge said his starting point would be at the lowest end for this type of offence. Beginning with a two year sentence, he discounted it to 16 months for the teenager’s guilty plea. He also recommended that if McLaughlin continued to apply himself to his studies, he should be released on parole at the earliest opportunity.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Come on, he should have got more than that, with-holding evidence/information isn't that interfering in a criminal investigation?

    Also "custodial sentence because despite the mitigating factors the mugging was perpetrated on tourists." huh? are tourists somehow more important than the rest of us? I live here so my safety and property are not as important as that of visiters?  I spend more in local stores than a tourist will……

    • Truthseeker says:

      "are tourists somehow more important than the rest of us"

      Short answer; Yes. 

      If you or me get mugged, that is criminal and unfortunate. If a tourist gets mugged then Cayman stands to lose an entire industry that provides jobs for thousands of locals. One of the victims in this particular case maintains a free website that provides information on Cayman's best snorkeling sites. When this incident occured he wrote an article about the incident . Thank goodness that he has not chosen to totally condemn Cayman as a result. I am quite sure he is reading the progress of this criminal case and these coments.  

      Thank you T.

      You must  know that thousands of good Caymanians weep with shame that this event ever happened. This Caymanian offers you his apology.



  2. Anonymous says:

    I am a long time visitor and home owner (since 1975) and am baffled by this outcome.  I know the 2 victims.  How did this 17 year old bystander to the crime get jail time?  Did he not divulge his friends? And if he had named them, would his punishment be worse than the jail time?  Lots of questions.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are correct. He wouldn’t testify against the other tow defendants, a decision I am sure he is regretting now.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Very sad. And good sensitive judgement from Judge Henderson. Yet another young Caymanian from an obviously dysfunctional home getting into serious crime. And of course we still have people saying the crimes are being committed by non Caymanians.

    • Anonymous says:

      …only because many are. Just look at the accused in other crime stories on CNS this week.

      • Anonymous says:

        19:44. Not most of the murders, robberies and gun-running, Bobo. At least 90% of these are our very own, whether we like it or not (and I don't).

        • Anonymous says:

          How did you arrive at this figure? If you have solved these crimes then you are withholding evidence from the police. If you haven't then you are simply saying what your personal belief is. 

          • Sheerluck Holmes says:

            I suspect the poster thought back to the recent crimes where the perpetrator is known, and having done that thought that 9 out of 10 of them were Caymanian and hey presto he got to a figure.  Do you want us to draw pictures if that is too difficult for you?

            • Anonymous says:

              Thank you Sheerluck: I am the poster who commented on the homegrown nature of crime and of course you nailed down exactly what I was basing my post on. When I read Mon 14:16 comment, I just took a very deep breath and decided there was no use responding because of course he or she is just one of these that cannot face the fact that nearly all of our serious crime is Caymanian and can't be scapegoated off on to Jamaicans or others. So I am grateful for your support in stating the facts.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I respect this young man's decision to turn his life around, he now has a chance that the others do not have. He has taken responsiblity for himself and I hope he does change his life and when released from Northward gets help from members of his community to stay on the straight and narrow path.

    • Anonymous says:

      How can you say he has a chance now after he gets out of Northward ? Theyre gonna make him a criminal in there and even if they dont when he comes out he aint gonna get a job.

      • Anonymous says:

        So your solution would be what,16:47? "He's a Caymanian so he should be given a chance and allowed to go free – the Caymanian entitlement to different treatment thing????

      • Anonymous says:

        How come this story is ran about a teen's conviction, but the 12 year sentencing on the gun charge was never printed???


        CNS Wendy:  As much as I try to get to every important verdict and sentencing, as the only reporter on CNS it can sometimes be very difficult to cover all of the various court cases and cover all of the important political and other local news events as well. I was unable to attend the sentencing of Robert Terry, who I understand was given 12 years for possession of a firearm after pleading guilty. As I was not present for the sentencing and do not have the details of the case I was unable to report the outcome. I am endeavouring to try and get the sentencing ruling but it may take some time.

      • Anonymous says:

        He should have thought of that before he mugged someone. I only wish they had tried to mug someone that fought back and kicked their asses!