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Carry a bat not a knife, judge tells cabbies

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A judge advised taxi drivers who fear being attacked to carry “a good piece of wood” or a bat, but not a knife or gun in their cab.

Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves made the comments before freeing a taxi driver from jail seven months into his three-year sentence for possessing a knife and machete.

Gladwin Cann's lawyer argued he should never have been convicted, as he had the machete in his cab for his job as a landscape gardener and the knife to eat steak with.

While Mr Justice Greaves condemned what Cann did, he acknowledged that some taxi drivers are scared to go about their work due to the threat of violence.

“If I was driving a taxi God forbid, that's one of the jobs I never want, I don't want that or to be a prison officer but I would say that a good piece of wood does a lot of work,” he commented.

“Get a cricket bat or a golf club, there's nothing wrong with those unless one adapts them for defensive purposes. But not running round with guns and knives and things like that.”

There have been multiple reports recently of taxi drivers being robbed at knife and gunpoint and getting caught up in shooting incidents.

In the Cann case, Police approached him on Front Street on December 23, 2009, after reports that his passengers pulled a knife on someone before they got in the cab.

When officers searched the cab, they found a machete under a foot mat and a small kitchen knife in the door panel.

Cann, 28, from Hamilton Parish, pleaded guilty to two charges of carrying a bladed article in a public place when he appeared at Magistrates' Court earlier this year.

He was sentenced to the mandatory minimum of three years imprisonment, to run concurrently on each count.

At a Supreme Court appeal hearing on Friday, defence lawyer Marc Daniels argued that Cann's explanations meant his guilty pleas were “equivocal” and should not have been accepted by the Magistrate.

Instead, Mr Daniels said, the matter should have gone to trial.

In any case, he argued, the three-year sentence was disproportionately harsh and he should only have got eight to twelve months.

A different lawyer represented Cann at the time of the Magistrates' Court hearing.

Mr Daniels pointed out Cann told Acting Magistrate Graveney Bannister he found the machete buried in his yard while doing some work.

He said it was in his cab because he was transporting it to his other job as a landscaper.

Cann also told the Magistrate he'd put the knife in his vehicle to eat a steak with, then forgotten it was there. Mr Daniels described this as “a good defence”.

Prosecutor Larissa Burgess conceded that the guilty plea on the machete charge should not have been accepted due to being equivocal.

She asked the judge to send the matter back to Magistrates' Court for a trial.

However, she argued the conviction for the knife should stand, as “forgetfulness is not a reasonable excuse in the circumstances”.

She nonetheless agreed the three-year sentence was harsh, and suggested a portion of it could have been suspended.

Mr Justice Greaves made it clear he took a dim view of Cann and his previous convictions.

These include possession of an offensive weapon a six-inch knife plus obstructing the police and burglary.

He questioned how he could have been allowed to work as a taxi driver, and commented that his previous conviction for having an offensive weapon means “he should know not to be walking around with these funny things”.

He upheld the appeal against Cann's conviction on the machete charge, but ruled against the prosecution's application for the matter to go to trial at Magistrates' Court.

Mr Justice Greaves said Cann had already served seven months and it may not be just for a further sentence which could be in excess of a year to be imposed if he was found guilty after a trial.

On the knife charge, he upheld Cann's conviction, saying the plea was not equivocal and the defence of forgetfulness “does not arise”.

Rather than ordering him to serve the remainder of his three-year sentence, he said that “time served should be the appropriate sentence in this case.”

Turning to Cann, he informed him: “You can go home today.”

Cann replied: “thank you sir, thank you sir,” before embracing his lawyer.

Mr Daniels described himself as “absolutely pleased” with the outcome of the case.

File photo
Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves advice to taxi drivers: Carry a bat or a piece of wood for protection, but not knives or a machete.

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Published December 20, 2010 at 1:00 am (Updated December 20, 2010 at 7:16 am)

Carry a bat not a knife, judge tells cabbies

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