Incest convict sentence cut

THE Clarendon man who was in 2015 sentenced to life at hard labour for incest with his teen daughter, who ironically was the child of his stepdaughter whom he had impregnated years before, on Friday had his sentence reduced by the Court of Appeal to 15 years’ imprisonment at hard labour in a new turn of events.

According to the details unveiled before the court, the child had been left with her grandmother, the man’s mother, because her mother had gone overseas. He, however, took her to live with him “so as to have access to her”.

The child, in her testimony, told the court that her father at first rubbed himself on her but did not go further. In a later incident he, however, called her to his sleeping area, told her to undress, and had intercourse with her after which he “threatened to kill her if she told anyone”.

She reported the matter to a guidance counsellor at her school which led to his arrest and charge for indecent assault and incest. Shockingly, during the trial for the offences against his child, her mother testified that he “had been her own stepfather and had sexually and physically abused her when she was a child”. His method of operation with her was the same as that with her daughter, the court was told. That sexual abuse resulted in a pregnancy and the birth of the same daughter he was convicted of molesting.

The woman’s story was confirmed by DNA testing, which was carried out as part of the investigation into the teenager’s complaint. Both mother and child testified that he would beat them when they were under his control.

Despite the fact that the events with the mother had taken place before, he was convicted of two counts of carnal abuse in respect of those events and was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. He was serving those sentences when he was being tried for the offences against his daughter.

Following that trial, the father, who had changed his initial ‘not guilty’ plea to ‘guilty’, was sentenced to imprisonment for life at hard labour, and ordered to serve 15 years before becoming eligible for parole. He was also sentenced to five years’ imprisonment at hard labour for the indecent assault charge.

The convicted father, who then appealed the sentences, lost his bid in respect of the sentence for indecent assault but was allowed an appeal in respect of the offence of incest.

Lawyers argued that the judge had erred in failing to identify the normal range of sentences for incest and an appropriate starting point within that range for the convicted father. They further argued that the judge had placed too much focus on the aggravating factors in the case and failed to pay enough regard to factors such as his guilty plea which resulted in him “not receiving a fair sentence”. They also contended that the judge erred in imposing a sentence that was manifestly excessive.

In the judgement handed down on Friday, the Appeal Court, in pointing out that section 7 (4) of the Sexual Offences Act stipulates that the maximum sentence for incest is imprisonment for life, said “the judge did not specifically indicate any reason for starting at the maximum sentence” and had therefore erred in this regard.

The court, in noting that the sentencing guidelines stipulate that the usual starting point is seven years’ imprisonment, said this, however, would not be an appropriate starting point for him since he knew that the child was born out of his sexual abuse of his stepdaughter and the fact that he meted out the same type of physical abuse to her as he did to her mother, is a basis for a higher starting point.

It, however, said that “although his behaviour is considered egregious and abhorrent, it is possible to imagine worse scenarios. His case is, therefore, not the worst of the worst” and does not deserve a starting point of life imprisonment.

“An appropriate starting point would be 12 years,” the Appeal Court said, in agreeing that “the learned judge did impose a sentence that was manifestly excessive” and ruled that “the sentence imposed by the learned judge for the offence of incest be set aside and a sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment at hard labour is substituted.

“The sentence is to be reckoned as having commenced on 22 June 2015, and is to run concurrently with other sentences imposed on or before 22 June 2015,” the court concluded.

The court, however, noted that the Act at the time was “relatively new” and that the “learned judge was, figuratively, breaking new ground with the sentence that she was tasked to impose”.

“She did, however, err in using the maximum sentence as a starting point of the exercise. Consequently, the court was entitled to reconsider the sentence,” it said.

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