Policeofficers attend opening of the 2014 Law Year
Policeofficers attend opening of the 2014 Law Year

The Roseau High Court was a buzz of approbation and satisfaction and was augmented by muted applause from the strangers gallery when sitting judge, Justice Errol Thomas handed down prison sentences of 25 years, 10 years and 25 years to a man from Portsmouth for the offences of unlawful sexual intercourse, indecent assault and buggery on a girl nine years and eight months old. At the time the prisoner assaulted her repeatedly.

Justice Thomas was in fiery mood when he sentenced Fagan Jno Hope, 51, to 35 years in prison. The two 25-year prison sentences will run concurrently to be followed by the 10 year sentence.

A jury of six women and three men found Jno Hope guilty on all three charges laid against him by the Director of Public Prosecutions with State Attorney Fernillia Felix leading the prosecutor during the trial from April 27-29, 2015. The prisoner was unpresented by counsel and thus had conduct of his own defence.

In reviewing the matter before passing sentence, Judge Thomas stated that the prisoner during a four-month period, July 1 to October 23, 2012 committed the offences of unlawful sexual intercourse which carries a maximum 25 years, indecent assault with a maximum is 14 years and buggery which also carries a maximum prison term of 25 years.

On one occasion he gave her money and told her to tell no one. She initially refused to take the money, but he took a knife and threatened her. So she took the money and went to school where she went on a spending spree. The spending ability of the girl got to the attention of a teacher, and the girl's case became a matter of a police investigation.

The Welfare Division social inquiry report which included interviews with the prisoner and victim, family and community members described the actions of Jno Hope as gross indecency on the nine year old girl, and which would adversely affect her social, emotional and academic life. Consequently, she was ridiculed by school mates and had to be relocated to a new environment where she felt unprotected.

Judge Errol Thomas reiterated that sexual offences on children in the Dominica society were a growing epidemic – the violation of the basic rights of the child, which resulted in fear, shame and anger of the victim.

The judge could not count any mitigating factors, and while enumerating the aggravating factors described the prisoner as a recidivist with a lack of conscience and lack of humanity.

The trial judge noted that the accused had two convictions for offences of a similar nature on girls between nine and 12 years. He was also convicted for murder in 1986 and sentenced death but served 10 years in prison, but he continued to maintain his innocence. His community however saw him as a threat to society especially children.

Judge Thomas added that figures coming from the Welfare Division noted that there were 906 cases of abuse of children between 2010 and 2014, 682 of which were sexual.

He noted the principles of sentencing of retribution, deterrence, reformation and protection. The Judge added that the sentence of the court was 25 years for unlawful sexual intercourse, 10 years for indecent assault and 25 years for buggery. The 25-year sentences would run concurrently followed by the 10-year sentence for a total of 35 years in prison.

Dominica needs to be protected from people like you, stated Justice Thomas, and to keep it safe for people who want to come to the country on a holiday. The sentence, emphasised Judge Thomas, was as a result of a full trial and not a guilty plea.

Justice Errol Thomas wished Fagan Jno Hope all the best in his future endeavours.

In mitigation, Jno Hope stated that only God alone knew what had taken place. He said he was a hardworking farmer and he had a woman and all of a sudden obstruction came in his way.

"I don't know care what people think about me. I have no fear about anybody, because only God that know why that happened to me," he said.

Justice Errol Thomas wished Fagan Jno Hope all the best in his future endeavours.