Trial regarding assault on four-year-old boy was closed, but judge says sentence hearings should be open
A young man found guilty of indecently assaulting a four-year-old boy was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. Justice Karl Harrison said the man should undergo a sexual offender treatment programme within the prison establishment while in custody.
The maximum sentence is 10 years.
“The court has a duty to protect young children, who are easily the targets of unscrupulous adults,” the judge said.
The trial by jury was closed to the public, but Crown Counsel Elisabeth Lees asked permission for a reporter to be present for sentencing. She explained this had been done in the past so the public would know that reports of assaults on children are treated seriously and pursued by both police and the Legal Department.
“All sentencing matters are a matter of public concern,” Justice Harrison replied. He added the reminder, however, that the victim could not be identified.
For that reason the defendant is not being identified, either, since the two are related.
In passing sentence, the judge noted that the boy, now five, had to undergo the test of cross-examination. Although not physically present in the courtroom, the boy testified via closed circuit television and could see and hear all that was taking place in these strange surrounding. He withstood the rigours of cross-examination by Defence Attorney Steve McField.
Five members of the jury believed the boy spoke the truth, the judge said. “I remember his forthrightness and how he displayed a high level of intelligence,” he said. “The jury accepted he was not tutored as to what he should say to the court.”
Sentences for indecent assault must be tailored to the facts of the specific case because circumstances vary so widely, the judge pointed out. In this instance, he regarded the offence as a breach of trust because of the relationship between the boy and the man. He considered the nature of the assault, which involved oral-genital contact.
He agreed with Ms Lee’s submission that the defendant’s not-guilty plea had put the child through the trauma of giving evidence.
The judge also referred to acts of a similar nature committed on boys of the same age group when the defendant, now in his early 20s, was not yet an adult.
Mr. McField emphasised that the defendant had experienced sexual abuse when he was eight years old.
There had been other family trauma that contributed to the problems his client faced, but he had undergone treatment and counselling and was on medication for his illness, the attorney reported. He submitted that this was not a case that required immediate custody. He asked for a sentence that would allow the defendant to continue his treatment and rehabilitation outside prison.
Family members said they intend to have an appeal lodged with the Court of Appeal against the conviction.