More than seven years after being charged with causing actual bodily harm to two women, Ronald Spencer Bennette pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year imprisonment.
For failing to surrender to custody during those seven years, he received a further six months for a total of 18 months.
Bennette, who left Cayman after his first court appearance on 23 July 2002, returned voluntarily in April this year, Defence Attorney Clyde Allen pointed out.
The victims of the assaults were Bennette’s child’s mother and her mother. The younger woman was stabbed in the neck and shoulder; her mother received three stab wounds to her chest.
Details of the offences were aired on 12 November, when Crown Counsel Kirsty-Ann Gunn presented the Prosecution’s case and Mr. Allen spoke in mitigation.
He said Bennette’s behaviour had been a momentary aberration. He and his child’s mother had been arguing on her porch. ‘In the argument and struggle the knife came out and got used.’
Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale asked if he were saying that the women had impaled themselves on the knife. ‘No,’ Mr. Allen replied. ‘That would be testing incredulity.’
He observed earlier that Bennette had accepted he was wrong ‘from the moment he takes out the knife.’ He asked for probation or a suspended sentence.
The chief magistrate summarised the incident as related by Crown and Defence. She noted the assaults were preceded by an incident at the younger woman’s workplace in June 2002, when Bennette grabbed her arm. That caused her to go the Family Support Unit to seek help for the violence against her.
Two weeks after, Bennette went to her home. A quarrel developed about access to the child and he stabbed her two times. The first injury was administered while she held the infant.
When his child’s mother’s mother heard the noise, she pushed the front door open and knocked Bennette off the stairs. She was then stabbed three times in the chest.
The chief magistrate said she accepted Mr. Allen’s assertion that Bennette did not go the house with the intention of using the knife or causing harm. Nevertheless, in the argument, he pulled it and used it and then used it on the older woman in an excess of temper.
She quoted a ruling in a UK appeal in which the judge said: ‘The use of weapons to settle family disputes is not acceptable in civilised society.
‘Where anger has been displayed in so violent a manner in a public place, the matter must necessarily result in serious punishment and other than in quite exceptional circumstances, which do not appear to be present here, must result in an immediate custodial sentence.’
The sentence in that case had been two years and the chief magistrate said she did not see any reason to not start there. She noted the factors put forward by Mr. Allen: Bennette’s previous good character; his ability to establish himself as a businessman overseas; his continued support of the child and another family member.
‘I think it important that in the seven years he has not reoffended, but I do not think he is entitled to a non-custodial sentence because of that,’ she said.
The discount she gave was 12 months.
Mr. Allen asserted that Bennette would lose his ‘green card’ immigration status in the USA if he did not return within a certain timeframe.
The chief magistrate agreed he might lose it, but he would not lose his property there.
She pointed out that the seven-year delay had caused significant distress and anxiety
Mr. Allen then told the court Bennette would lose his property in the US and would not be able to pay child support if he had a custodial sentence. He said there had been a social inquiry report done by a probation officer; in light of that report, Bennette genuinely believed there was a possibility of a suspended sentence.
The chief magistrate retold Bennette he had the right to appeal within seven days. She called the social inquiry report in his case bizarre and unhelpful. It had contained no summary of facts and no photographs to show the women’s injuries.