Court reduces attempted murder sentence

The sentence of 12 years for attempted murder has been reduced to eight years for a woman who admitted stabbing her ex-husband four days after their divorce became final.

During the session that ended last week, the Court of Appeal heard arguments from Howard Hamilton QC on behalf of Sherene Crowe.

She was sentenced in Grand Court last July after pleading guilty.

Mr. Hamilton asked the court to hear evidence from psychiatrist Dr. Marc Lockhart, who had been treating. Crowe for several years before the incident that led to the charge.

The court agreed. Dr. Lockhart then summarised his diagnosis and treatment of the defendant. He explained that there is no cure for her condition, a bipolar affective disorder, but it can be controlled with medication.

He said he saw Crowe hours after the offence and it was quite clear to him that she was suffering from a depressive state. She was having significant features of hopelessness, alienation and abandonment, resulting from all the consequences of the divorce.

Asked about Cayman’s facilities for treating someone with the defendant’s disorder, Dr. Lockhart explained that there is an in-patient psychiatric unit which is designed for short-term stabilisation – several weeks at the most.

In an ideal situation, the doctor continued, Crowe would be better served in a forensic facility which would focus on rehabilitation from the psychiatric point of view and she would be serving her time. Her medication would be regular and it would be enforced.

There are no such institutions in Cayman.

Senior Crown Counsel Adam Roberts asked if psychiatric nurses did not visit the prisons.

Dr. Lockhart said yes. But it was hard to verify that Crowe was taking her medication regularly: it should be on a daily basis. Some patients can fool untrained prison officers about swallowing medication, he indicated.

Further, the disorder can change rapidly, depending on stress, so the person should have close regular supervision.

Dr. Lockhart suggested that Crowe come to the in-patient clinic two or three days a month.

Court president Mr. Justice Edward Zacca said the appellant needed help and she needed to be incarcerated. ‘Is there anything we can do?’ he asked.

Mr. Hamilton submitted that the sentence was manifestly excessive. He suggested five years, based on UK cases he cited.

He pointed out that the sentencing court did not have the benefit of hearing from Dr. Lockhart. Another psychiatrist’s report had been handed up for the Grand Court judge to read. What that doctor said Dr. Lockhart said was different from what Dr. Lockhart himself had just told the Court of Appeal.

Mr. Justice Martin Taylor observed that, in jurisdictions without the psychiatric facilities described by Dr. Lockhart, it was very important that the prison work with medical authorities to do the best they can to create an appropriate setting within the system.

Mr. Justice Ian Forte pointed out that the Grand Court judge, when passing sentence, had added a condition that Crowe get ongoing psychiatric treatment.

Mr. Justice Zacca commented, ‘We are not abandoning her. We want her to get treatment.’

In announcing the decision to substitute a sentence of eight years, he also stated that prison authorities should consult with Dr. Lockhart as to what is required for the appellant’s treatment and follow his instructions.

‘We are not abandoning her. We want her to get treatment.’

– Mr. Justice Edward Zacca

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