Sun | Oct 1, 2023

Jewellery robbers get sizeable cuts in sentences

Published:Saturday | October 15, 2022 | 12:08 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter

Three alleged gangsters who were sentenced to 20 years in prison for their involvement in the brazen 2011 daylight $50-million jewellery heist at Tropical Jewellers on Constant Spring Road in St Andrew have had their sentences significantly reduced...

Three alleged gangsters who were sentenced to 20 years in prison for their involvement in the brazen 2011 daylight $50-million jewellery heist at Tropical Jewellers on Constant Spring Road in St Andrew have had their sentences significantly reduced.

Jahvid Absolam and Garnett Linton will now be serving 12 years, 11 months and one week in prison, while Winston Harris will be serving 10 years and 11 months.

The appellants, who police alleged are members of the infamous Rose Town-based Discipline Gang, were also sentenced to five years for simple larceny, but were also successful in getting the appellate court to overturn their larceny conviction and to set aside the sentence.

The trio’s sentences were reduced after the Court of Appeal accepted that the trial judge had erred in his approach to the sentencing, as the appellants were not given credit for pretrial remand. It also found that their sentences were excessive.

The men were also credited with a further two-year reduction in their respective sentence by the Court of Appeal for breach of their constitutional right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time, due to the fact that their case had taken eight years before it was heard.

They had filed the appeal in May 2014, but the transcript from the trial was not made available until June 2021, and the matter, as a result of the preparation process, was delayed by another year.

The alleged gangsters were among armed robbers, who posed as cops and held up staff at the jewellery store about 11 a.m on April 6, 2011. They made off with a large quantity of merchandise taken from the store’s showcases, including rings, chains, and Movado watches.

They also disarmed two security guards and left with their weapons.

Days after the robbery, the police went to Harris’ home and recovered a Movado watch, three gold chains, and $185,000.

Harris, who was taken into custody, then gave a caution statement in which he stated that he was the getaway driver.

Linton and Absalom were later arrested, and during a caution statement, Absalom stated that the robbery was set up with the assistance of a staff member. Both men were placed on an identification parade, but were only pointed out by one person, a security guard.

In May 2014, following their trial, they were each sentenced to serve 15 years for the illegal possession of a firearm, 20 years each for two counts of robbery with aggravation and five years for simple larceny. The sentences were to run concurrently.

Following their conviction, the men, through their attorneys, sought leave to appeal their conviction and sentences on several grounds.

Among the grounds were the judge’s treatment of the caution statement and discrepancies in the trial, the judge’s intervention during the taking of the evidence in the trial, a dock identification during the trial, and the appropriateness of the sentences.

However, a number of the grounds failed as the court found that they did not unfairly prejudice the defence and that there was no miscarriage of justice.

The appellate court, however, found that the trial judge had acted unfairly in allowing the prosecution to recall a defence witness who was then allowed to dock-identify Linton, who he had earlier failed to point out during a visual identification parade.

In respect to the trial judge’s misstep regarding the sentencing, the Court of Appeal judges, said, “Learned counsel are correct that the learned trial judge erred in his approach to the sentences. He, indeed, reminded himself that the appellants had spent a long time in custody and that he was obliged to consider it, but he did not carry out the mathematical exercise that was required.”

Furthermore, they said it was not known whether he gave the men full credit for the remand period of three years and three weeks.

The appellate judges agreed with Crown counsel that at the time, the judge did not have the benefit of the sentencing guidelines, but noted that there were other guidelines that were available.


The appeal court judges, however, underscored that the offences require custodial sentences and that the prevalence of the offences as well as the fact that it was carefully planned and brazenly committed in the day with men posing as police officers were among the aggravating factors. The one mitigating factor, they highlighted, was that no one was harmed.

Turning to the sentencing guidelines, the appellate court said that the usual range for the offence of illegal possession of a firearm is seven to 15 years, with the usual starting point being 10 years while the usual range for robbery with aggravation is 10-15 years, with the usual starting point being 12 years.

“In the instant case, considering the numerous general aggravating factors, and the single mitigating factor, the starting point for the illegal possession of firearm offence should be 14 years and the starting point for the robbery with aggravation should be 17 years.

Consequently, the judges, arrived at nine years, 11 months, and one week for illegal possession and 12 years 11 months and one week for robbery with aggravation for both Absolam and Linton.

While Harris received seven years and 11 months for illegal possession and 10 years and 11 months for robbery with aggravation.

Attorney-at-law Melrose Reid represented Absolam, Karlene Afflick appeared for Harris while Leroy Equiano defended Linton.