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‘Everything is just crumbling’ former RBR commander tells court

David Curley, a former commanding officer of the Royal Bermuda Regiment (File photograph)

A former commanding officer of the Royal Bermuda Regiment who pleaded guilty to a charge of official corruption told a judge he was not aware he was committing a crime at the time of the offence.

David Curley also said that he was now unable to get a job and that his marriage had been destroyed because of his crime.

Curley, 55, had pleaded guilty in July to asking the late Justin Williams, for a nomination to join the Order of St John in exchange for firearms and/or a position at the RBR. The offence took place over several months in 2015 when Curley was head of the RBR with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

At a sentencing hearing before Puisne Judge Juan Wolffe yesterday, defence lawyer Mark Pettingill acknowledged that his client had approached Mr Williams to inquire about getting nominated to join the Order of St John.

But he pointed out that e-mail exchanges showed it was Mr Williams who then suggested a “quid pro quo” arrangement in which Curley would provide him with decommissioned weapons from the regiment’s arsenal.

Mr Pettingill added that Curley even consulted with the Commissioner of Police to see if two guns could be given to Mr Williams, an avid collector.

Addressing the court, Curley read out a brief written statement, saying that he “deeply regretted” his actions and that he “should have known better”.

He also apologised to the court, family and friends, the St John Ambulance organisation, and the regiment.

Mr Justice Wolffe then asked Curley to explain his actions and how his life had been affected by the crime.

Curley, who served for 30 years in the RBR before being forced to resign in 2016 as a result of the offence, replied: “I didn’t think that I was doing anything wrong – it was just an inquiry. I didn’t think anything of it.”

He said that he had been unemployed for the last three years and was forced to hustle in order to survive.

He had lost his home and his marriage, and his two teenage sons were also affected by the crime.

He said: “It has had a huge impact on my career. I had it all taken away from me – it was a devastating blow.”

Curley said he had lost contact with military friends who no longer wanted to be associated with him.

“Some of them don’t want to talk to me – everything is just crumbling,” he said.

Curley added that he had been barred by the Governor from ever using his military rank as a title, and that he carried a deep sense of shame.

“You try to take one day at a time but it’s difficult to do that,” he said. “I think about it every day – it’s a horrible place to be.”

Curley said that he had had a long association with St John Ambulance which supplied medics to the RBR when it went on overseas exercises.

He had also acted as a mentor to young Bermudians during his time in the regiment, serving as training officer for many years.

Earlier during yesterday’s hearing, prosecutor Yanique Gardner-Brown pushed for a custodial sentence of between 18 months and three years.

But she said the Crown would not object to that sentence being suspended if Curley was given additional punishments such as community service.

Ms Gardner-Brown said that, although Curley did not gain financially from his crime, it had “eroded public trust in a public institution”.

But Mr Pettingill argued that a prison sentence was excessive punishment for someone who had already lost so much.

Describing Curley as “a good man”, Mr Pettingill said: “All good men sometimes do bad things. Good men sometimes do silly things. He carries the weight of shame with such a weight it impacts on his posture.

“There is the loss of reputation, the loss of opportunity. Everything he worked for 30 years is tarnished and lost because of one thing.”

Mr Pettingill pointed out that, before laws were amended in 2011, Curley’s offence would have been treated as a misdemeanour punishable by a fine.

Mr Justice Wolffe deferred sentencing until next month.