12 years in rape of ex-girlfriend

Dwight Wright was found guilty and sentenced last month to 12 years imprisonment for rape after a trial by judge alone.  

The victim was a woman Wright, 38, had been in a relationship with. During the trial, she acknowledged they had been intimate but she had tried to break off the relationship and had phoned police for help many times because of his actions.  

The allegation of rape arose about four months after she had started trying to break things off. There was phone contact during the day. He called that night and she didn’t answer the phone. The woman was home watching television when there was a knock on her front door. She knew it was Wright and ignored him. He kicked in the door, damaging the frame, and told her words to the effect, “You didn’t answer the phone, but you’re going to answer tonight.”  

He grabbed her arm and took her into the bedroom where he indecently assaulted her and had intercourse without her consent. The woman said she was scared to death, but didn’t scream because she knew no one would hear her and didn’t fight because she would get the worst of it. She said he had a knife in the bed. 

Before leaving, he took money from her purse, told her he would get the door fixed and begged her not to call the police. As soon as he left, she phoned 911. Police observed the broken door jamb and footprint on the door. They took the woman’s statement and she was transported to hospital. 

Wright was arrested five days later at his residence. When officers shouted at him to come out, he hid under a bed, where they eventually found him. He said the woman was wicked and telling lies and said he had gone to her house because she called him for sex. 

Wright did not give or offer evidence during the trial. His defence was that whatever happened was consensual. 

Justice Alexander Henderson said the question before him was had the Crown ensured him the woman did not consent.  

He said he had observed the woman’s demeanour closely and there was nothing to suggest she was lying. 

He noted the evidence of the broken door frame with an inoperative lock. “I do not believe a woman living alone would have had a door in that condition very long,” he said. The evidence supported the woman’s credibility.  

She had also given evidence of Wright having a gun in his pocket when he came into her residence. This allegation led to a firearm charge, but the judge ruled that this evidence was uncorroborated and contradictory. 

Justice Henderson said his final consideration had to do with the drawing of adverse inference.  

If there was an innocent explanation for the broken door frame or for Wright’s actions at the time of his arrest, he could have said so. The inference the judge drew was that Wright’s evidence and cross-examination would not have assisted his defence. 

When he considered all those facts together, he was satisfied that Wright was guilty of rape and indecent assault. Sentencing was adjourned so that Crown Counsel Tricia Hutchinson and Defence Attorney John Furniss could submit case precedents and guidelines for the judge’s consideration. He also asked for a victim impact statement. 

Ms Hutchinson told the court that the woman did not want to be responsible for sending someone to prison for such a long time, in the event he came back out and harmed her. “She won’t be responsible for sending him to prison,” Justice Henderson replied.  

At the sentencing hearing, he noted that Wright had nine previous convictions for assaults of some type, albeit not sexual. He also had drug offences.  

The maximum sentence for rape is life imprisonment. Local guidelines suggest a starting range of 10 to 12 years, which recognises cases will be different. 

The significant aggravating factor was the forcible entry after kicking in the door, the judge said. Also aggravating were the use of a knife and Wright’s record for violence. 

In mitigation, as Mr. Furniss pointed out, Wright did not strike the woman or threaten to kill her and there was no evidence of a long-term harmful effect.  

In addition to 12 years for rape, he imposed five years for the indecent assault, but made this term run concurrently. 

Ms Hutchinson told the court that the woman did not want to be responsible for sending someone to prison for such a long time, in the event he came back out and harmed her.  

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