Defence attorney confirms appeal of both conviction and sentence
Former police officer Rabe Welcome was sentenced on Friday to six months imprisonment following trial in June, when a jury found him guilty of wounding.
The incident that led to the charge occurred at the Red Bay “On the Run” gas station in the early hours of 17 June, 2009, when Welcome was off duty. Suspended with pay since the incident in June 2009 that led to the charge, Welcome was terminated from the police force upon his conviction.
Justice Alexander Henderson passed sentence late Friday. After Welcome was escorted to a police car, defence attorney Ben Tonner went to the Criminal Registry to give notice of appeal of both conviction and sentence.
Justice Henderson had adjourned sentencing for a social inquiry report and then again so that Crown Counsel Kenneth Ferguson and Mr. Tonner could submit any case precedents.
On Friday, Mr. Tonner urged the judge to impose a community-based sentence instead of imprisonment. He pointed out it was perfectly conceivable that Welcome would have to serve his sentence side by side with people he had arrested in the past, so the consequences for him were much more severe.
He said Welcome had taken pride in serving his country, first as a customs officer from 1997 and then as a police officer from 2007. Now, at age 38, he had lost his career in public service. The incident had taken a toll on Welcome, his attorney added – so much so that he had sought counselling to deal with the stress and impact of what had happened.
In his sentencing remarks, Justice Henderson summarised the events that led to the charge and the concerns that had prompted him to postpone sentencing. Because the law in Cayman does not make provision for asking jurors on what basis they came to their decision, the judge had to make findings of fact based on his opinion of the evidence and the arguments of both counsel.
He found that Welcome initiated a dispute with Adolphus Myrie by making inappropriate remarks to Mr. Myrie’s then-girlfriend. He found that Mr. Myrie over-reacted by cursing and threatening Welcome. He found further that Mr. Myrie took a machete from his car and pointed it at Welcome and his two companions, also off-duty officers.
Mr. Myrie was disarmed, the judge continued, so Welcome had no need to defend himself. He did have the right to arrest Mr. Myrie for carrying an offensive weapon and threatening violence.
The judge found that Welcome intended to arrest Mr. Myrie but also intended to apply force well in excess of what was reasonable, in order to punish him for the earlier insults. Mr. Myrie had told the court that Welcome “hugged me up and walked me to the back of the station.” There a CCTV camera recorded what happened and the jury was able to view it. Mr. Myrie also told the court he was 5 feet 8 inches and weighed 130 pounds.
Welcome said he was 6 feet and weighed 250 pounds. He denied kicking Mr. Myrie, saying he was simply trying to free his foot.
A doctor’s evidence confirmed that Mr. Myrie’s injuries included a laceration to the chin that required stitches, another laceration to the head, bruises and a broken arm.
The principles of sentencing require that a judge have regard to the need for both general and specific deterrence, for rehabilitation of the offender and for the protection of the public, Justice Henderson said. In this case, he was satisfied that personal deterrence, rehabilitation and protection of the public did not require a custodial sentence.
However, he continued, he had to have regard for general deterrence in sentencing which, in this case, meant the need to deter other like-minded police officers from using excessive force in order to punish a suspect or take revenge. It is of the utmost importance that all police officers understand that the use of excessive force will not be tolerated; misuse of the power of arrest amounts to a breach of trust, he said.