Sentence stands for assaults on boy

Gifford Prendergast lost his appeal last week and remains sentenced to five years imprisonment for indecent assault on a male under 16.

His attorney initially filed an appeal against conviction as well, but that was abandoned. Instead, Howard Hamilton QC argued that the sentence was manifestly excessive.

In a cross-appeal, Crown Counsel Kirsty-Ann Gunn argued that the sentence was unduly lenient.

Mr. Hamilton pointed out that, when Justice Alexander Henderson found Prendergast guilty and considered sentence, he used a starting point of four years.

The attorney indicated that was the highest the sentence should have been because there were no aggravating features. He then drew attention to Prendergast’s lack of previous convictions and 26 character references.

Mrs. Gunn said there were aggravating features and the sentence should be higher than five years.

Submissions were heard by Court of Appeal President Sir John Chadwick, Justice Ian Forte and Justice Elliott Mottley. Their decision was delivered by Justice Forte.

Justice Forte noted that the eight counts of indecent assault were specimens, representing a course of behaviour over a period of 18 months or so. The sentence was five years on each count, but running concurrently.

Another aggravating feature, which was particularly applicable, was the deliberate targeting of a vulnerable victim.

As to the character references, Justice Henderson said he did place some weight in them when passing sentence, but he wondered how many of them would have been written as they were if the writer had sat through the trial.

‘This was a well-reasoned judgment by the trial judge,’ Justice Forte said. While the sentence might appear to be lenient and could easily be more, we cannot consider it was unduly lenient.’

Justice Henderson had emphasised that Prendergast was not sentenced because he participated in homosexual acts, but because the acts involved a juvenile. The judge considered this the same as cases involving girls younger than 16.