Church custodian assaulted girl

Sentence suspended for kiss on stomach

Christopher Sutherland, 53, was sentenced in Grand Court last week to 20 weeks imprisonment, suspended for two years, after he admitted lifting the shirt of an eight year old girl and kissing her on the stomach. 

Sutherland, described as a custodian at Elmslie Memorial Church and helper with youth activities and music, pleaded guilty to indecent assault last year. Sentencing was adjourned pending receipt of a psychiatric report and victim impact statement. 

Sutherland resigned his position after the incident. He and the girl were known to each other. 

In passing sentence, Justice Charles Quin noted that the basis of the guilty plea was an admission of the kiss on the stomach, but a denial of any other touching. Sutherland had indicated previously that he did not think what he had done was indecent, but he subsequently accepted that it was. 

The offence took place at the church premises when the girl and her mother were downtown for a national holiday celebration. The mother called Sutherland and asked him to open a rest room for the girl to use. 

Contact with the girl occurred after she did use the facility. Sutherland asked if she was going to tell her mother. She did, immediately. 

The judge said this question showed that Sutherland knew what he did was inappropriate, if not indecent. 

 

Unplanned 

In the defendant’s favour, there had been no planning of the assault. Once brought to court, he pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity. He had no previous convictions. 

Justice Quin thanked Crown Counsel Tricia Hutchinson for her submissions on sentencing and guidelines. He found the 2003 UK guidelines to be especially helpful, he indicated. 

At the lower end of the scale of offences is contact between part of the offender’s body other than the genitalia with part of the victim’s body other than the genitalia. The starting point for sentencing is 26 weeks when the victim is younger than 13 and the offender pleads not guilty, Justice Quin summarised. 

In this case, a probation officer filed a pre-sentence report in which a risk assessment was done and Sutherland found to be at medium to low risk of re-offending. There was no information that he had any propensity for violence. 

 

Glowing references 

The judge also read from references he described as glowing and said they had been furnished by people who thought long and hard before giving them. Referees included two church members and someone from the Humane Society, where Sutherland volunteered. 

With a starting point of 26 weeks, Justice Quin gave credit for the early guilty plea and cooperation, imposing 20 weeks to reflect the gravity of the offence. Although suspended, it was still a sentence of imprisonment, he emphasised, because if Sutherland commits another offence within the next two years he will go to prison for this offence. 

The judge told Sutherland to not put himself in a position for something like this to happen ever again. He urged the defendant to start the counselling programme referred to by Defence Attorney Lucy Organ and he suggested that Sutherland read the report about himself so he would be reminded “to be careful for the rest of your life.” 

 

Psychiatric report 

Ms Organ referred to various parts of the psychiatric report when she spoke in mitigation. The report did not say Sutherland was a risk to young children, she pointed out. The report did say he was capable of understanding social issues in an intellectual way, but his emotional intelligence was very low, as would be expected from his birth order and dysfunctional, oppressive childhood. He probably understood right from wrong in a basic way, but the nuances of social borderlines eluded him. 

Ms Hutchinson highlighted part of a report summarising Sutherland’s attitude toward the offence. The report said it was clear that he did not recognise boundaries that one should not go beyond with a child.  

1 COMMENT

  1. This is, indeed, a pitiful case to be reading of.

    It also highlights the risk of volunteer work for churches and charitable organizations, where these organizations are not held legally responsible for doing psychological evaluations and background checks on volunteers working with young children.

    Obviously, until this situation happened, no one was aware that this man was emotionally and pysychologically unfit for volunteer work involving young children and it is a pity that it had to be discovered in this way.

    In the UK, there is a very robust system of evaluation, both through criminal records checks and professional assessment within the organizations that hopefully catches these situations before any damage is done.

    Cayman is suffering from a lack of strong legislation and support systems, particularly in the ongoing assessment area, in evaluating church and charitable organizations volunteeers.

    Hopefully this case will contribute to strengthening these areas and making Cayman’s childern safer.

  2. Hurray for the brave little girl, and her parents who raised her with the right stuff to know how to handle that situation! Dont think about the ‘what if’ and how things ‘progress’ when people are not caught on that 1st offense. Parents remind your kids what to do when and if ever approached.

  3. Basically he got away with it!!
    Has he been banned from working with children and youths? It states that there is a low to medium risk he will re-offend, any risk should not be tolerated.
    All the while these sex offenders get away with this behavior they will continue and there is a strong chance it will progress. Maybe he will go to greater lengths to hush up his victims next time.
    I can’t imagine how angry the mother and family of this little are.
    Only time will tell what emotional damage this has done to this little girl.
    Cayman needs a sex offender and pedophile registar!
    and a punishment befitting the crime, ‘SUSPENDED SENTENCE’ should not exist when it comes to a sexual crime.

  4. The question that needs to be asked is ‘why was he allowed to work with children in the first place’?

    My opinion is that too much leverage is allowed to churches and voluntary organizations simply because of the types of organizations that they are; in the government organizations such as schools, the standard for personnell vetting for those who deal with children is much more stringent.

    These rules and standards should be applied across the board and sexual offenses against children, much more codified and the penalties, much more stringent.

    A court injunction that he never works with children and mandatorily attends counselling should have been a part of his sentence if the court was going to give him the benefit of the doubt of leniency, which it has done.

    I’m sure that because he was a church volunteer had much to do with that.

    It is also for this church to accept its responsibility in this affair.

  5. That he didn’t think what he did was wrong???? and they don’t think he is a threat to children? Are we missing something? Did anyone know that he is a foreign national and that he was here on a work permit? Will he still reside in the cayman islands?

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