Domestic violence is always taken seriously in Cayman courts, Mr. Justice Alex Henderson told a defendant last week. It will be punished with terms of imprisonment in appropriate cases.
However, in the case of Carlton Harriott, the judge said he was satisfied the assault fell to the less serious end of the scale. He also considered Harriott’s previous good character and other mitigating factors.
The defendant pleaded guilty to assault causing actual bodily harm to his wife in December 2002. They had split up for a period but were back together at the time of the assault.
One issue was whether or not there needed to be a special hearing as to how many times he had struck her.
The complainant in her deposition said he hit her with his fists four or five times.
The defendant accepted that he had caused a bruising on her arm by twisting it, but he denied hitting his wife.
The judge was shown photographs. He commented on one that a person had to look very carefully to see what was being pointed at.
Defence Attorney James Austin-Smith said there would not need to be a special hearing if the disputed fact would make no real impact on sentencing.
If the judge found that two of the photographs did show injuries and the defendant caused them, the sentence was still not likely to be custody, Mr. Austin-Smith suggested.
The seriousness of the offence was that the assault took place at all and the most serious injury was the bruise the defendant admitted causing, Mr. Austin-Smith said. He respectfully contended that the court did not need to determine if any additional blows were struck.
Mr. Justice Henderson agreed that any findings of fact after a hearing would make little if any difference in the circumstances.
Crown Counsel Elisabeth Lees said the offence occurred after the complainant received a late night phone call. This made the defendant angry and he made certain accusations.
He was attempting to grab the phone and twisted the complainant’s arm. He then got the phone from her and threw it against the wall, breaking it in two. The complainant went to another room and called police and the defendant left.
Mr. Austin-Smith said that Harriott, 46, had no previous convictions. Four years had elapsed since the offence and there had been no violence since – not to the complainant or anyone else, or any other problems
In passing sentence, the judge commented that even if there was significant provocation, it did not excuse Harriott’s actions.
‘You committed a serious criminal act when you assaulted your ex-wife,’ he told the defendant.
Given the less serious nature of the assault and the guilty plea, the judge placed him on probation for one year and required him to do 100 hours of community service under the direction of his probation officer.