Indecent assault conviction for man who offered ride

Magistrate activates suspended sentence

After
being found guilty of insulting the modesty of a woman and indecent assault,
Thomas Ariel Ebanks was sentenced on 13 May to 18 months imprisonment. Chief
Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale also activated a previously suspended sentence,
giving Ebanks a total of 27 months.

“This
is a pattern of behaviour that causes the court extraordinary concern,” she
said.

The
latest convictions arose from an incident in December 2009. The Crown’s main
witness was a woman who said Ebanks had offered her a ride as she was walking
toward George Town in the daytime. She said she was going to the hospital and
he drove in that direction, but then took her off the main road.

She
was in the back seat and did not see, but heard his zipper unzip and saw his
hand movement. He touched her leg, asked her inappropriate questions and made
indecent comments. She got out of the car and walked away.

During
the incident, he had turned around and she saw his face for about five seconds.

The
magistrate said she was satisfied the incident did occur as the woman described
it. The only issue was whether Ebanks was the man who did the acts complained
of.

Defence
Attorney Lucy Organ had questioned why the woman would enter the car of a man
she didn’t know.

It
transpired that the woman did know him from walking along the road previously;
he had offered her a ride, telling her his name was Thomas Ebanks.

“Anybody
can say they are somebody else,” the magistrate pointed out. “In the
circumstances, the police could have held an identity parade.”

If
this were the only evidence, the Crown’s case would have failed, she continued.
But it was not the only evidence.

Later,
as the woman was still walking, the man drove up and said “I thought you said
you had to go to the hospital.”

That
was when she recorded the car’s licence plate number on her cell phone. She
then reported the matter to police. Records showed that registration number
belonged to a vehicle owned by a relative of Ebanks. The woman had also
recalled the colour and approximate make of the vehicle.

Ebanks
did not give evidence, but Ms Organ called a relative who told the court what
time Ebanks went to his home and left again on the day of the incident.

However,
questioned by Crown Counsel Kenneth Ferguson, that witness could not remember
his own movements on the day in question. The magistrate said she felt she
could place no weight on the evidence of that witness.

In
conclusion, she was satisfied so that she felt sure Ebanks was the man who made
the insulting suggestions and did the acts complained of.

In
mitigation, Ms Organ said she did not seek to minimise the fear the woman may
have felt during the incident. But it was of short duration and the touching
was to her knee, over clothes.

She
noted that Ebanks had entered the Alcoholics Anonymous programme after his 2009
convictions.

The
nine-month sentence he received then — for common assault and insulting the
modesty of  woman — had been suspended
for two years. The attorney accepted that the new convictions put him in
breach.

The
magistrate asked to look at Ebanks’ record of previous convictions and noted
they included being a rogue and vagabond, being idle and disorderly.

The
offences he had been convicted of in this latest trial were at the lower end of
the scale, the magistrate commented. It was the circumstances in which the
touching occurred that made the assault indecent. In the context of his
previous convictions a longer than normal sentence was indicated in order to
deter him from further offending.

The
prison has forensic psychologists on staff who might be able to assist Ebanks,
she noted.

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