A stepfather is supposed to take the place of a father and protect the child, Mr. Justice Lloyd Hibbert said after a recent Grand Court trial.
Instead, what had happened in the case before him was that the defendant had betrayed his position of trust by raping his stepdaughter.
After considering all the circumstances, the judge imposed a prison sentence of 10 years. The maximum is life.
The man had pleaded not guilty to rape and indecent assault. He admitted sexual intercourse, but said the girl had suggested it and he had agreed in a moment of weakness.
After hearing from the girl, the girl’s mother and the defendant in a trial by judge alone, Mr. Justice Hibbert said he had watched the girl carefully and noted the way she gave her answers. He found that she spoke the truth.
He was also impressed by the mother’s evidence, but not by the defendant’s.
The offences occurred on a school day when classes had been cancelled. The girl had a friend over to the house, something her mother had forbidden.
The defendant came home and, although the friend had left without being seen, he suspected what had happened.
He suggested the girl do something to prevent him from telling her mother. She said she would pay him, but he said no – he wanted oral sex.
At first she refused, but out of fear of her mother’s reaction and the reaction of another family member, she decided to go along with what he said.
Out of fear
Afterwards, he wanted full sex. He told her what to do and she did it out of fear of being reported.
During cross-examination it was suggested to her that it was her idea to have intercourse in payment for the silence of the defendant. She said no; she had gone along with it because of the threat hanging over her.
Later, in the presence of the defendant, the girl told her mother what had happened. He denied it. The girl received a beating because it was thought she was lying.
The same thing happened the next day.
On the third day, when further questioned by the mother, the stepfather admitted having intercourse but said it was at the girl’s suggestion.
In finding the stepfather guilty, Mr. Justice Hibbert referred to this aspect of the evidence. He posed the question: Having bought the defendant’s silence with sex, why would the girl then need to make a report to her mother?
The judge rejected the defendant’s version and found that the girl made the report to her mother because the man had intercourse with her without her consent and by means of threats.
In mitigation, it was pointed out that the girl’s mother had since filed for divorce and the man will have to leave the island after his time in custody. It was also noted that no physical violence was used.
Mr. Justice Hibbert had referred to this aspect of the offence by reading from the definition of rape in the Penal Code. Rape is intercourse without consent. A person is deemed not to have consented if that person’s acquiescence was obtained by means of threats or intimidation of any kind.
As a stepfather, the man should have been protecting the girl, the judge emphasised. If the stepfather found that the girl had been doing something wrong, he should have reported the matter to her mother.
It was reprehensible that he had capitalised on the situation and extracted from the girl a payment for keeping quiet. By doing this he had betrayed a trust placed on him, because when the girl’s mother married, she expected her husband to be a father to the girl.
‘This is the trust that was placed on you which you have betrayed,’ the judge told the defendant.
Then the defendant had compounded matters by letting the girl be beaten even though she begged him to speak the truth. In essence, what he had done was inflict further punishment on her, in addition to what he had inflicted on her the day of the offences.
The judge did agree to let the sentence for indecent assault run concurrently with the term for rape.