Acquaintance rape is not less serious than rape by a stranger, court agrees
Phillip Turner Rose was sentenced on Friday to 14 years imprisonment for four offences of rape, two offences of assault causing bodily harm, one offence of abduction and one of using a telecommunication service to threaten, harass or abuse.
The victim was a woman with whom he had a consensual relationship for about six months. After she broke it off, however, he continued to pursue her for the next 18 months until she finally left Grand Cayman.
Rose, 46, admitted leaving a series of sexually insulting and/or threatening messages on the woman’s voice mail. However, he denied all other charges, which were based on incidents that occurred during those 18 months. Some of the messages were received after the woman relocated and she subsequently pressed charges.
The defendant elected to be tried by judge alone and Chief Justice Anthony Smellie heard evidence during a trial that took place 31 October to 11 November. It was accepted that both Rose and the woman were married at the time of their relationship, but were estranged or living apart from their respective spouses.
The woman’s evidence took three days and included photographs of injuries. She said she told Rose to leave her alone, but sometimes she submitted to intercourse with him to get peace of mind. She did not press charges, but asked police to make sure he left her alone. It was after an incident in which he picked up a kitchen knife and threatened to kill her that she felt the only thing she could do was leave Cayman.
Rose said the woman did not break up with him, but even if she did it was only for a short time. He said she toyed with his affections by letting him into her apartment one night but then not the next. He said three of the incidents she complained of never happened at all and on the fourth occasion intercourse was consensual.
The judge delivered his verdicts before Christmas, noting that each charge had to be considered separately. He agreed with defence attorney Ben Tonner that there was no case to answer on one assault and one rape charge. He dismissed another rape charge but found Rose guilty of the other seven charges on the indictment. Mr. Tonner asked that psychological assessments be obtained before sentencing took place.
Crown Counsel Kenneth Ferguson conducted the case for the prosecution and Crown Counsel Tricia Hutchinson spoke at the sentencing hearing.
Referring to a bundle of authorities and precedents, both local and from the United Kingdom, she noted that the maximum sentence for rape is life imprisonment. Sentencing guidelines set a tariff at 10 to 12 years, but that range is not binding. There have been sentences of five years when the victim was an adult and there were no aggravating features. At the other end of the range there have been local cases of sexual offences in which a sentence was 15 years, while another sentence of 25 years was reduced to 20.
Any rape is traumatic and humiliating, Ms Hutchinson told the court. In this case there were aggravating features, including gratuitous violence and in one instance the use of a knife.
She pointed out that when the rape takes place in the context of a relationship between the victim and the offender, the same starting point applies as for rape by a stranger.
Fear for reputation
In passing sentence that afternoon, the chief justice commented on this point. He said Rose knew the woman would not readily complain for fear of losing her reputation and her job. Had the rapes been committed by a stranger, she would have felt free to complain.
The judge said Rose had not only physically abused the woman but he had also exploited his psychological advantage. The woman had trusted Rose enough to let him into her life, but his behaviour was motivated by a selfish need to dominate and control, the judge said.
He said his task was not to judge the defendant as a person, but to measure the conduct of which he had been convicted by the standards of decency society is entitled to expect according to the law. By those standards, Rose’s behaviour could never be tolerated.
The judge said Rose had abused an act that can be a fundamental means of expressing love for another and which society valued as such.
Mr. Tonner had asked for reports because his client had complained of panic attacks. He noted during the sentencing hearing that Rose had first experienced anxiety and claustrophobia during the relationship. The judge asked if those feelings were a reflection of pangs of conscience and Mr. Tonner said the reports submitted to the court did not assist in answering that question. He also noted some complaints Rose had about the reports.
Mr. Tonner said it was potentially relevant that Rose left the Island and went to Panama after investigations began, but at that stage he had been arrested for assault, not any sexual offence. His explanation was that he feared incarceration because he has a genuine phobia regarding enclosed spaces.
The sentence of 14 years was imposed for each count of rape and the one abduction, but made to run concurrently. Three-year sentences for assault were also concurrent, as was a one-year term for the illegal use of information and communications technology.
The chief justice agreed with Mr. Tonner’s request to credit Rose for his time in custody in Cayman, but not for time spent in custody in Panama.
Rose entered a notice of intent to appeal.