Suspended Corporal of Police, Joel Horsford has been striped of his rank and sentenced to 3 years at Her Majesty’s Prison on a number of charges related to stealing by reason of employment.
Horsford had earlier pleaded guilty to 10 counts and the sentences will run concurrently.
Madam Justice Paula Gilford who handed down the ruling at High Court No. 2 also ordered Horsford to undergo counseling and to compensate the state in the sum of EC$$122, 999, to be paid within a three-year period to commence upon completion of the 3-year prison term.
The judge ruled that if Horsford fails to compensate the state within the stipulated time he will be sent back to prison to serve an additional 3 years behind bars.
Horsford pleaded guilty to defrauding the Government of Grenada, stealing a sum of approximately EC$122, 944.93, while serving as the Officer in Charge of the Finance/Accounts Department of RGPF during the period December 6th, 2003 – May 30th, 2005.
The first time offender, who also does farming in his home village of Tivoli, St. Andrew was initially charged with “30 counts” of stealing, but accepted an offer from the Prosecution, which saw the charges reduced to 18 counts to make the case more manageable.
However, Horsford, a father of 2, who according to his Social Inquiry Report is a respected and helpful member of the Tivoli community, only pleaded guilty to 10 of the counts brought against him.
Horsford was first enlisted in RGPF as a Police Constable in 1993 and after demonstrating exemplary service, was promoted to the rank of Corporal of Police in 2004.
The sentence hearing revealed that the investigation, which led to Horsford’s arrest, was triggered by inconsistencies with the payment of the salaries and allowances of approximately 12 police officers.
Acting Director of Public Prosecution, Howard Pinnock pointed the court to the facts of the case, in which Horsford designed a scheme to have government cheques made out in the name of other police officers drawn and lodged into an RGPF account at the Bank of Nova Scotia.
The lead State Prosecutor said that Horsford act was to make the monies payable to three different accounts carrying the name “Joel’s Poultry Farm.”
Pinnock pointed out to the court that the stolen monies were never recovered and when asked what he did with the funds, Horsford’s response was that he “used it to buy feed and other things.”
Defense attorney, Dr. Francis Alexis QC, called three witnesses to the stand to attest to Horsford’s character, including the accused himself, his former father-in-law and retired Deputy Commissioner of Police, Raymond Charles, all residents of the Tivoli community.
Even though he expressed disappointment and agreed that Horsford’s conviction has caused damage to the image of the police force, the former Deputy Commissioner asked the court to impose a non-custodial sentence and allow him to continue as an officer of RGPF.
This newspaper understands that any public servant convicted of a felony and sentenced to more than three years or more behind bars can no longer serve in that office.
In making her decision Madam Justice Gilford noted the nature and seriousness of the offence pointing out that Horsford’s actions represented a serious breach of trust.
She also told the court that because Horsford was promoted to a higher rank prior to the offence, it means that his superiors respected him.
In Madam Justice Gilford’s view, the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors in Horsford’s case. And incarceration would give him time to reflect on his actions.
She added that such an offence has a negative impact on the general public and justice must also be seen to be served.
Meanwhile, Attorney-at-Law Anslem Clouden, who assisted Dr. Alexis, QC in the case announced that while the conviction is not being challenged, papers are being prepared to appeal the latter part of the sentence in which Horsford was given 3 years to recompense the state.
“We are of the opinion that the latter part of the sentence is unlawful and we are preparing to file an appeal in the matter,” he told reporters last Thursday morning.
The acting DPP said, while it is the right of the defense to appeal the judgment, it was his understanding of the law that “the learned judge has the power to impose, either, a non- custodial sentence and compensation, a custodial sentence with no compensation, or a custodial sentence and compensation”.
Pinnock referred to Sections 70 and 71 of the Criminal Code, and said that, “Section 71 (1) basically says that any person (who) is convicted of an indictable offence may be adjudged by the court to make compensation to any person injured by his offence and Section 71 (3) goes on to say any such compensation may be either in addition to or in substitution for any other punishment…”.