MONTEGO BAY, St James - JONATHON Mitchell, the mastermind behind last year's kidnapping of a three-year-old child from the Mount Alvernia Preparatory and Kindergarten School in Montego Bay was yesterday sentenced in the St James Circuit Court to six years at hard labour.
The 24-year-old Mitchell, who worked with the child's father, and two other men were sentenced after entering pleas of guilty on September 24 to a reduced charge of child stealing, contrary to section 69 of the offence against the Person Act.
Mitchell, Trevor Tomlinson, who was the driver of the getaway car, and a third man who was a juvenile when the act was carried out, were all charged with kidnapping, conspiracy to kidnapping and conspiracy to obtaining money by fraud.
Tomlinson was sentenced to two years at hard labour, while the other man who is now 18 years old, was given a three-year probation order.
A fourth person, an American citizen, Jenice Regisford, who has maintained her innocence, will be tried later this year starting December 4.
The youngster was the only one who showed any emotion at the sentencing. He broke down in tears, while his mother, who was also in court, sobbed loudly and was overheard saying "Thank you, Jesus" repeatedly, when she realised that her child would not be sent to prison.
The convicted men and Regisford were arrested in May last year after the three -year-old child was taken from the preparatory school to a house in Clarendon.
But quick action by the police, however, led to their capture and the retrieval of the child.
Justice Martin Gayle, who handed down the sentence said children must not be interfered with.
"Leave our children alone; children are a gift from God and should not be interfered with, let them enjoy their childhood and have a happy life," he urged.
His Lordship said he was "still at a loss how such a masterpiece of planning came about," adding that Mitchell, who worked with the parents of the child, had issues pertaining to a job-related injury but instead of seeking legal redress, decided to take matters in his own hands.
The judge described the act as "gross" and said, "I hope that what happened in this case is a not a culture we will see in our own country."
He said "those who harm children must be punished, and I can well think about how the parents felt to lose their child... that must have hurt deep down; you hurt the child, you hurt his parents and you hurt society", he told Mitchell.
The court heard that the child and his parents have been traumatised by the ordeal and the judge said the child has been reminding his parents to lock the doors and windows at their home.
And referring to Tomlinson the judge said, "How could you, how could you allow yourself to join such a serious thing? As the driver you took hours to drive to Clarendon and never took a minute to think about the child and your actions."
Lawyers representing all three men asked for leniency during mitigation.
Marjorn Wallock, who represented Mitchell, told the court that her client had asked her to apologise to the court and to the family of the child for what took place and said he acted "stupid" on the day of the incident.
Wallock said Mitchell was "hurt" by what he thought was injustice and that "his voice had not been heard but he knew now that he should have sought legal recourse".
She said "at no point was there any intent to cause harm to the child and that the four months he spent at the Freeport lock-up surpassed any lessons he would have had to endure.
Meanwhile, Adrian Dayes, who represented Tomlinson, said his client showed "repentance and remorse," adding he had a "limited role" in the saga and was only told about the plan after he was asked to rent the car.
And Albert Morgan, who spoke on behalf of the third man, said he was "vulnerable at the time he took part in the foolish venture" and that he had departed from his good upbringing and Christian values.