Judge Errol Thomas, left, and law officials at the opening of the New Law Year
Judge Errol Thomas, left, and law officials at the opening of the New Law Year

A twenty-seven year old man of a northern community is serving two years in prison at Stock Farm for indecent assault. Trial judge Justice Errol Thomas imposed that sentence when the man appeared before him for sentencing on Monday February 9, 2015.

A jury of seven women and two men found the young father guilty at the Roseau High Court on Thursday January 22 after a four-day trial during which the State called four witnesses. Tiyani Behanzin represented the accused. Justice Thomas postponed sentencing to obtain a social inquiry report from the Welfare Division.

Behanzin, in mitigation, said the man was responsible for three children, one adopted and two daughters aged 5 and 2 years in his common-law relationship. He ran the family shop owned by his mother, worked in building and masonry. The lawyer asked the court to consider the impact on the vulnerable children he was responsible for as well as his grandmother and extended family where he lived. A prison sentence in the long run and short run would run counter to society, added Behanzin.

He agreed that the offence was a serious one but that the court should consider a sentence which would allow the prisoner to continue his employment and provide for his family. He urged the court not to impose a custodial sentence; and that if given a custodial sentence time spent on remand would be taken into consideration.

Judge Thomas, in summary of events during the sentencing hearing, said the 33-year old woman (at the time of the assault on Saturday June 1, 2013 about 3:00am) left her business place for her transportation. She found the driver in an altercation. While speaking with the driver someone held her from behind and said it was a long time he had not seen her. She looked around and saw the accused. She told him to let her go because she was not his friend, and pushed him off. He pulled her and she shouted at him to let her go. They were in dark alley. The man grabbed her. He threatened to slap her if she did not stop shouting. He repeated his threat. She said she was afraid and stopped shouting.

He then assaulted her. The matter was reported to the police and the man was arrested. He told the police that he had not assaulted the woman and that he was innocent.

The woman told the Welfare Officer she was traumatized and felt suicidal on occasions. She had been sexually abused as a child.

Justice Thomas explained the impact of such assaults on the victim: the feelings of shame, is distrustful of others and display of anti-social behaviour. The judge noted that the woman was still traumatized and that the effects would forever be etched in her mind. The convicted man had shown no remorse.

Judge Thomas stated that the court needed to send a strong message that females should be respected. The aims of sentencing were for retribution, deterrence, reforming and protection of society.

The man also had previous convictions in magistrates' courts of assault and battery. The offence carries a maximum prison term of five years.

The Judge added that sexual offences were on the rise hence deterrence to tell others and the prisoner that this behavior is not acceptable and this is what they face when they don't respect women. The judge sentenced the man to two years imprisonment; time on remand was deducted.