Prosecutor: Every time St George’s man is out of prison, ‘private property is in jeopardy’
A “prolific” burglar with a $150-a-day cannabis habit had his sentencing deferred by the Supreme Court, for a social inquiry report, before his fate is decided next month.
The court heard that Neville Woods, 44, of St George’s, has been caught in a “spiral of offending” since he began stealing as a teen.
Woods now faces a maximum of 14 years in jail, for one count of burglary plus three of receiving stolen goods.
He has admitted burgling $825 in items, ranging from cufflinks to a stone bust, from the Jennings Road, Smith’s residence of John Stout on December 6.
Mr Stout returned home that day to find an air conditioner removed from a window and his front door ajar.
However, a nearby resident had noticed a suspicious-looking motorcycle and noted down its registration.
Woods also admitted receiving stolen goods taken from three December 10 burglaries of other Smith’s homes on South Shore Road, Knapton Hill and Harrington Hundreds.
Jewellery worth $5,500 was taken from the first, a value unknown from the second, and $180 from the third.
Woods was arrested on December 12, after a police detective entered the Hamilton cash-for-gold store Gold Standard, recognised him, and questioned him based on his antecedent history.
At the time, Woods denied stealing the numerous items of jewellery he had brought in for sale — but was unable to give a satisfactory explanation of how he had come by them.
The items were seized and their photographs circulated. Police contacted different residents who had complained of burglaries, and were able to track down their owners.
Woods later fled the scene when police attended his Sofar Lane residence, but was arrested shortly afterward.
Items from the Jennings Road burglary were found in Woods’ house, and the vehicle parked outside, which matched the plate number of the motorcycle from December 6 burglary, was confirmed as his by the Transport Control Department.
Woods owned up to the burglary and admitted handling stolen goods, but claimed a man named Buck had paid him $200 to sell the jewellery
Reviewing Woods’ criminal history, Crown counsel Maria Sofianos told Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons that “every time he is free, public property is in jeopardy”.
The history “reads like the resume of a man who has dedicated his life to the diligent pursuit of property offences”, she added.
Ms Sofianos pointed to his 30-year history of offences ranging from taking vehicles, stealing, prowling, breaking and entering and robbery.
Woods had been offered “the full gamut” of treatment available, but “none have curtailed his recidivism”, she added.
The prosecution asked for an immediate custodial sentence of eight to 12 years, noting that in 2011 there were 701 residences on the Island reported burgled.
Defence lawyer Oonagh Vaucrosson didn’t dispute Woods’ lengthy history of crime, noting that it included 20 cases of burglary and theft, plus five of receiving stolen goods
The court heard that Woods was most recently sentenced in 2009, by the Supreme Court, to eight years in jail for handling stolen goods.
It was subsequently reduced to four and a half years in the Court of Appeal. Ms Vaucrosson said Woods had been released on May 12, 2012.
Turning to her client’s personal history, she said Woods’ offences went back to 1982, when he was 14.
She told the court Woods’ parents had separated when he was three years old; that his mother emigrated to the US, and that his father had remarried to a woman who did not accept him.
Woods had begun running away from home to seek refuge with his grandmother, and slipped into crime.
After being released from corrective training, Ms Vaucrosson said, Woods emigrated to live with his mother in Philadelphia, where he became a cocaine addict.
She said he had recently switched to cannabis in an effort to escape crack cocaine, and had been fired from his job in November after being caught by his boss while smoking the drug.
“He doesn’t know what else to do and has never been taught or given the opportunity to try to live correctly,” Ms Vaucrosson told the court, arguing that detention alone wasn’t doing anything.
With Woods before her in the dock, Justice Simmons said: “If this were a 25-year-old in the face of the court, I could understand. But this is a 44-year-old man who at some point had to have learned something of value.”
However, she remanded Woods in custody for social inquiry and drug assessment reports, ordering him to return for sentencing at February 1 arraignments.