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Hotel bill skipper released on bail

The 66-year-old Canadian resident jailed for 30 days for non-payment of a guest house bill over $8,000, was released in his own recognisance. And the case was sent back to Magistrates' Court, at a date to be confirmed.

Chief Justice Ian Kawaley made the ruling after hearing submissions in the Supreme Court yesterday on the appeal of Neil Crane, of Scarborough, Ontario.

Two lawyers appeared on his behalf, Bruce Swan, the duty counsel who appeared for the defendant when he was formally charged and lawyer Arthur Hodgson.

Mr Crane pled guilty to a charge of failing to pay $8,409.49 to Clear View Suites and Villas and was subsequently sentenced to 30 days imprisonment.

The court heard from Crown counsel Susan Mulligan that the owner of the guest house, Ruth Paynter, is the sister of Mr Hodgson who appeared for the defendant.

Mr Swan indicated that he had spoken with the complainant who did not wish to prosecute and that information was passed on to Crown Counsel Cindy Clarke.

Her colleague, Susan Mulligan told the court that she knew nothing of Mr Swan's assertion.

Mr Swan told the court that the defendant thought he had 30 days to pay the bill that someone else was to account for.

“The crown offered no evidence that there was no intent to pay the bill,” he said.

He asked the Chief Justice to quash the guilty plea and release Mr Crane from custody.

Ms Mulligan said that it was “most unusual circumstances” in that Mr Hodgson “recorded instructions from the complainant and the defendant as well”.

She noted that Mr Crane was arrested at the airport while attempting to leave the island, he was discovered at the airport bus stop.

Ms Mulligan said the case had a “history of promises to pay”.

“As far as I know there hasn't been any payment which belies what he's saying,” she said.

Mr Hodgson countered: “There's has been a comedy of errors with no intent to blame anyone. I ask that the sentence be quashed.

Had he appeared on Mr Crane's behalf before he said he would have asked for a conditional discharge.

Justice Kawaley noted: “There's a world of difference between an outstanding debt and someone making off without paying.

“The proper course is to remit the matter back to Magistrates' Court.”

Mr Hodgson stressed that his client had already spent two weeks in prison on a 30 day sentence.

“He could serve ten more days and go,” said Mr Hodgson before he asked the court to consider the “practicality” of the case.

After hearing submissions from both sides, the defendant was ordered to surrender his travel documents.

He was released on $1,000 in his own recognisance and the case was remitted back to Magistrates' Court.

The bill in question was incurred at the Hamilton Parish guest house between July 25 to September 7.

- Chief Justice Ian Kawaley (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published September 24, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated September 24, 2013 at 9:28 am)

Hotel bill skipper released on bail

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