Stabbing offence nets woman two years

Defendant, victim roles reversed

Darla Natasha Ebanks, 27, was sentenced last week to two years imprisonment after a Grand Court jury found her not guilty of attempted murder but guilty of wounding causing grievous bodily harm.

The incident leading to the charge took place in the ladies restroom at Macabuca Bar in the Cracked Conch Restaurant in September 2008.

The victim, Debra Ebanks, was stabbed in the back and the injury included a punctured lung. The jury heard that a small piece of metal was found inside the victim, which could have been the tip of the knife.

The jury also heard that eight years ago Debra was charged with causing grievous bodily harm to Darla. That matter went to trial and a Grand Court jury found Debra not guilty by reason of self-defence.

During the recent trial, 3-7 August 2009, it was suggested that Darla stabbed Debra in revenge. Darla rejected that idea, pointing out that the two women lived two streets away from each other and nothing had happened between them in all the intervening years.

Darla said Debra had attacked her in the restroom and they both saw a knife on a basin. Darla said she managed to get it first and stabbed Debra in self-defence.

During the sentencing hearing, Crown Counsel Marilyn Brandt cited local and UK cases in which sentences for stabbing ranged from three to eight years.

Defence Attorney Philip McGhee said this case clearly fell at the lower end of that bracket.

He asked Justice Charles Quin to consider what the jury verdict meant. The Crown’s case was that Darla was attempting to kill Debra: jurors could have returned a guilty verdict on that charge but they did not.

In all likelihood, he suggested, they accepted Darla’s evidence that she did not intend to kill. But in administering the blow she went ‘over the top’ in self-defence.

Mr. McGhee pointed out there was never any evidence that Darla knew Debra would be at the bar that night; neither was it suggested that Darla carried a knife with her as a matter of routine

He ended with a summary of her personal circumstances, including her good work record and previous good character.

Justice Quin said that, having heard the evidence from both women, he had to accept there was some uncertainty about where the knife came from. He was prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to Darla.

He also accepted that premeditation was extremely limited. He noted that Darla had remained at the scene and did not try to avoid arrest.

Her social inquiry report indicated remorse and a willingness to pay compensation. It said she had already written a letter of apology.

Justice Quin said he had to impose a sentence that showed the seriousness of the offence. At the same time, his decision was based on the unique facts and circumstances of this case.

‘I am mindful of the fact that there has to be an element of punishment for the seriousness of the knife attack, and an element of deterrence to reflect the community’s view of knife attacks,’ the judge said.

For all these reasons, he was prepared to go below the low end of the range as cited by Ms Brandt.

He imposed a sentence of two years, with time in custody to be taken into consideration.