July 5, 2020

18 months jail sentence for teen arsonist

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arsonShaneeke Julianie Wellington (19) was sentenced by Justice Charles Quin to 18 months in jail at HMP Northward after receiving a three year prison sentence for arson with half of it suspended.

Wellington pleaded guilty that on the 17th day of June 2012 at 9 Oakmill Street, Windsor Park, in George Town, Grand Cayman to damaging the property by fire belonging to her husband’s family, Fletcher Ebanks, intending to damage or destroy property or being reckless as to whether any property would be destroyed or damaged and intending by the destruction to endanger the life of another, or being reckless as to whether the life of another would thereby be endangered.*

*[It is understood there were at least 6 people sleeping in the house (including 1 senior citizen over 75 and 2 children under the age of 5.)

Wellington had admitted being aware that other people could have been in the building adjoining the room but had done nothing to warn them about the danger.

Wellington’s common law husband, Mark Ebanks, the intended victim of the arson attempt, who lived in the house with her, said that on the night of the 16th June 2012 he and Wellington attended a dance party at the RoofTop bar until it closed. Thereafter they attended Jah T’s and had a few more beers. They then made their way to Windsor Park and then asked a relative to take them to the Defendant’s house where they stayed (having sexual relations) until about 2 a.m., at which time Ebanks decided to leave, as he did not want Wellington’s mother to find him there.

Prior to leaving the house, Ebanks, received a bbm on his telephone inviting him to join friends at the Park in Windsor Park. Both Wellington and Ebanks decided to walk to the Park, however, Ebanks’ breathing became laboured and he took a ride with his cousin on his bicycle whilst Wellington walked.

Ebanks told the Court that, having been at the Park for about 10 minutes and Wellington had not arrived, he told his nephew to give his house keys to the Defendant when she arrived as he and a few others were going to the petrol station to purchase cigarettes.

Ebanks stated that when he returned to the Park, Wellington became irate – demanding to know where he had been and whom he had been cheating with.

There was an exchange of blows and Wellington claims she was knocked to the ground in this exchange.

Ebanks said Wellington left the Park immediately after the altercation and he left the Park about 10 minutes later and walked to his home. He said that on approaching, he smelled smoke. He made his way to the back of the yard where his room is located and he noted the smell of smoke getting stronger. Ebanks noted the key was still in the door and the door was not locked.  He opened it, saw the flames inside and said the fire was concentrated near the air conditioner. The chair and the bed were also on fire, along with some clothes.  He tried to contain the fire by pulling items out of the room and dousing them with water. However, he was unsuccessful and, as a result 911 were called and the fire brigade arrived and eventually put the fire out.

When the police arrived Ebanks gave them Wellington’s address and the police then went to the house and confronted Wellington regarding the fire. She immediately admitted the offence and said, “Yes I burn the house and I wish he was f****** there!”

Wellington said she was annoyed because she assumed that Ebanks was cheating on her and therefore, after the altercation at the Park she went to his bedroom at 9 Oakmill Street in order to collect her belongings. She admitted she was still angry because she believed Ebanks was cheating on her and because he had knocked her to the ground.

Whilst collecting her belongings Wellington poured a bottle of rum onto his bed, then got four pieces of toilet paper, set fire to them and placed them on the bed. She then left the room, closed the door behind her and walked home. When she got there she borrowed her sister’s phone and sent a message to Ebanks stating that the house may be on fire. She said the text was sent about 20 minutes after she set fire to the toilet paper and left Ebanks’ premises.

Although no one was hurt, the crown submitted that the fire could have seriously endangered life and the defendant had been extremely reckless.

Wellington’s attorney said that the defendant had been in an abusive relationship with the complainant, who was much older than her, and had asked for the judge to consider the Social Enquiry Report (SIR) that recommended a probation order. She had also admitted the offence and had given the police a full account of what had taken place. Defence counsel also said Wellington took full responsibility for her actions and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity. There was also no evidence that Wellington had any predilection for setting fire to premises or for any crime of violence.

She had also had too much alcohol when she had committed the act.

She had no previous convictions and her chances of reoffending were fairly low.

Wellington is working as a waitress, her attorney told the court, and she works 7 days per week.

However, Judge Quin said the Court could not ignore the Defendant’s (Wellington) responses to her act of arson.

He listed them as:

(a) The SIR states that the Defendant told the Probation Officer, “with a bright smile”, that she sent Mr. Ebanks a blackberry message stating, “I hope you liked how I decorated your house”, and then laughed.

(b) When   the police   first   went   to the Defendant’s house   and confronted her regarding the fire and she immediately admitted the offence but said to the police:

“Yes I burn the house and I wish he was f——- there.”

(c) Another of the Defendant ‘s responses to the police was: “Yes I did it, I don’t care.”

(d) The Defendant clearly disclosed her intention to set fire to the building when she told the officers that she carried out the act: ” …so that Mark would not have anywhere to sleep.”

(e) The Defendant admitted to police that she knew that some of the occupants of the adjoining side of the house would be inside but she did nothing to warn them of the possible danger.

(f) The   SIR report   states   that   the   Defendant   was   seemingly ”forthright in her discussions with the undersigned officer and in relating her feelings about the committal of the offence. Of note is the fact that she kept laughing when relating her direct actions that led to her transgressing the law.”

(g) The Probation Officer noted that, when expressing her remorse for the arson, the Defendant’s gestures whilst recounting the incident caused the Officer some concern.  The SIR thus stated that the Defendant “does not seem to grasp the gravity” of the offence and the situation she now faces. The SIR records that the Defendant indicated to the Probation Officer that she is upset that she lost control of herself in the commission of this offence and the Defendant also expressed concern that others might be upset with her.

The Probation officer had also said it was his opinion “the union (with the older man) has reportedly been plagued with interpersonal differences, issues of infidelity, lack of trust, poor communication, verbal and physical abuse from its inception.”

“Upon examination of the foregoing, coupled with the evidence that the Defendant knew the Mr. Ebanks was not at his room adjoining the house, and therefore she would not be impeded in carrying out her act of arson,” the Judge said, “I do not accept the Defence’s submission that “too much alcohol” was the reason for the Defendant having carried out the arson.  It is not apparent that the Defendant understands the seriousness of her act which, in the aftermath of the offence she, by her own admissions, clearly intended to commit.”

Judge Quin also said he found the statements uttered by the Defendant, regrettably, did not constitute remorse or personal horror for executing the act of arson.  He added that she knew that others could have been in the building and knew (by her delayed blackberry message to Mr. Ebanks) that the building would have been set on fire for some 15 to 20 minutes.

After having noting the delay in hearing the sentencing submissions in this case had been primarily due to the significant delay in the receipt of the psychiatric report first ordered on the 1st   August 2012, Justice Quin referred to the Psychiatric report he had finally received from Dr. McGill as:

(a) In the Psychiatric Report Dr. McGill says that the Defendant shows  “an   indication of passive aggressive type personality traits demonstrated in her relationship with her consort.”

(b)  Dr. McGill states that based on the Defendant’s history of her relationship with the older man, Mr. Ebanks, [the Complainant] much of the Defendant’s “extreme   emotional reactions are in response to her consort’s behaviour.”

(c)  Dr. McGill says that the Defendant shows  “an   indication   of passive aggressive type personality traits demonstrated in her relationship with her consort.”

(d)  Dr. McGill states that based on the Defendant’s history of her relationship with the older man, Mr. Ebanks, [the Complainant] much of the Defendant’s “extreme   emotional reactions are in response to her consort’s behaviour.”

(e)  Dr. McGill’s opinion is that the Defendant “has no history of psychiatric disorder or significant medical problems.”

The Court also noted the Defendant was “seemingly forthright” and her  “acts of “determination”.

By the Defendant’s own account to the Probation Officer, in a public place she “confronted” Mr. Ebanks about his whereabouts and when he was reluctant to answer any of her questions “she slapped him in his face and he in turn punched her.”

Though being advised against the marriage Pastor Delisser states they both insisted  on  going  ahead  with  the  purported wedding but approximately  three months after the marriage,  the Defendant came to his office,  asked to see the marriage documents and tore them into pieces.

Justice Quin in handing out his sentence said,  “Arson is a very serious   offence and should rightly attract an immediate custodial sentence.”

He quoted from an English Court of Appeal decision that said the seriousness of the crime is the risk of danger to others. An act of arson, done out of spite or resentment against a particular person can endanger the life and property of not only the targeted person, but also the lives and properties of many others – neighbours, the fire service officers and all that have a duty to respond to a fire. It is for this reason that deterrent sentences must be passed for this crime.

“In this case,” the Judge said, “the Defendant had time to consider her action and should never have poured the alcohol, which acted as an accelerant, over the bed and then set the fire.  The Court must impose a prison sentence, which reflects the gravity of the offence and the need for the protection of others.

“I cannot find any special circumstances in relation to the offence or the defendant in the case. From my review of the case law I assess the starting point, based on a not guilty plea, after a trial, at 4 1/2 years’ imprisonment.

“The Defendant immediately admitted the offence to the police, though showing   little remorse.    She   pleaded   guilty   at   the   first   opportunity.

Accordingly, in light of the Defendant ‘s guilty plea the Court will allow a 33 1/3% discount and impose a sentence of 3 years’ imprisonment.

“The Court takes into account that the Defendant is a young woman who, at the time, was only   19 years of age.  The Defendant   has no previous convictions and there is no evidence that she has any predilection for causing this sort of offence or has any fascination with fire – even though, the Defendant’s temper is clearly a cause for concern and must be addressed during her time in custody.

“In light of these factors I will suspend the second 18 months of this term of imprisonment. In addition, when the Defendant is released from Fairbanks Prison, the Defendant is to follow the Probation Officer’s recommendations as follows:

I.          Attend and actively participate in the Anger Management Group at the Department of Community Rehabilitation  (DCR);

ii.         Attend and participate in the Interpersonal Relationship Enhancement Awareness Programme at the DCR.

iii.        Refrain from any verbal and physical altercation with the Complainant (Ebanks) or with anyone else.

iv.        Perform 60 hours of community service.”

“Ms. Wellington,” Justice Quin told a now tearful Defendant, “you have committed a very serious offence.  You will have time to consider the consequences of your actions.  This Court hopes that during the 18 months you will serve in custody you will avail yourself of all the programmes and facilities at your disposal, and focus on educational pursuits. Understand that upon your release in 18 months, you will still be on a term of18 months of imprisonment – though it will be suspended and you will not be serving it in custody.  During those 18 months, should you commit any further criminal offence you will be liable to an immediate further term of imprisonment of 18 months.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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