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Burglar a ‘good guy’ says restaurant owner

Gilles Cailliere

His restaurant may have been targeted in a burglary, but Wok Express owner Gilles Calliere turned the other cheek and insisted the offender is a “good guy”.

Mr Calliere told The Royal Gazette Ernest Smith Jr, who stole more than $2,000 worth of stock from his Southampton outlet, needs help to break a vicious cycle.

Smith, 38, was sentenced to a total of two-and-a-half years in jail on Wednesday after admitting a string of offences in the western parish.

However Mr Calliere said yesterday: “It’s sad because I know his dad and brother — I know them very well.

“Even this gentleman is very nice — unfortunately it’s drugs.”

Mr Calliere said Smith needs help because “he won’t be able to do it on his own”.

“He’s such a good guy, but I don’t know how he is going to get back on track — nobody will trust him to hire him because of his past. If he doesn’t wake up, I’m afraid it’s going to be too late,” Mr Calliere added.

In Magistrates’ Court, Smith was given two years’ imprisonment for breaking into three Southampton properties and stealing items worth more than $4,500, as well as taking a motorcycle without consent.

Another six months were added to the sentence after he also pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer in a separate incident.

At a previous court appearance on May 7, Smith pleaded guilty to the offences and pre-sentencing reports were ordered.

At that time, the court heard that Smith stole ten lighters, 30 packs of cigarettes and food items from South Shore Hospitality at Horseshoe Bay on April 21.

Five days later, he stole two cellphones from a South Road residence and took a Honda cycle without consent. And on May 3, he stole three boxes of cigarette papers and 31 cartons of cigarettes, worth a total of $2,655, from Wok Express. He turned himself in to police the following day and admitted the offences.

But Smith had denied assaulting the police officer when he was first charged with the offence on February 24.

He also denied violently resisting arrest and behaving in a threatening way towards his father by brandishing a garden hoe.

In court yesterday, Smith admitted assaulting the officer and the Crown offered no evidence on the other counts.

Prosecutor Victoria Greening told the court that police attended Riviera Road, Southampton, and found Smith hiding next to a wall when they searched the area.

Ms Greening said Smith became “aggressive” and “combative” when the officers tried to handcuff him and that he pushed one of them into the wall.

Defence lawyer Alexandra Wheatley said that Smith, who apologised for his actions in court, had been using alcohol and drugs when he carried out the offences.

Smith said he committed the crimes to support his drug habit and pleaded for another opportunity to get his “life back on track”.

Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo noted that Smith has “had all the treatment” and that the only thing in his favour was that he turned himself in to police and pleaded guilty.

Mr Tokunbo sentenced Smith to two years’ imprisonment for breaking into and stealing from Wok Express and handed him another two 18-month prison terms for stealing from the other properties.

He also sentenced Smith to 12 months’ imprisonment for taking the bike, with all four sentences to run concurrently.

But Mr Tokunbo sentenced Smith to a further six months imprisonment for assaulting the police officer, bringing the total to two-and-a-half years.

Time already spent in custody will be taken into account and Mr Tokunbo recommended that Smith take advantage of any programmes offered to him while he is incarcerated.

He also ordered that the prison term be followed by two years’ probation with all the conditions outlined in the pre-sentencing reports.

• It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding criminal court cases. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.