Suspended sentence takes into account eight months in custody and need for counselling, judge says
A man who pleaded guilty to defilement of a girl, 13, but not guilty to raping her was dealt with last week under the Alternative Sentencing Law.
Justice Charles Quin imposed a prison term of two years for defilement “to reflect the seriousness of the offence” but suspended the sentence for two years and placed the man under supervision for that period.
The defendant, who was 30 at the time of his offence, must attend any psychiatric, medical or counselling sessions recommended by his probation officer.
The defendant is not named in this report because Cayman’s Criminal Procedure Code prohibits publication of any matter likely to lead members of the public to identify the victim when rape is alleged.
Crown Counsel Kenneth Ferguson said during an earlier sentencing hearing that the man’s pleas had not been acceptable to the Crown and the rape charge was set for trial. However, the victim refused to testify and so the plea to defilement was accepted. The rape charge was left on file.
At the time of the offence, Mr. Ferguson summarised, the man was residing with his wife and two children in a house shared with the victim and her family. The girl’s mother had decided to share the residence because the man had fallen on hard times.
On the night of the incident, the girl’s parents went to a party. She and a sibling were left in the care of the defendant. While she was seated at a computer, he began to massage her shoulders. She shrugged him off and told him to stop.
Then he tried to put his hand between her legs. Again she told him to stop, but he persisted and she fought off his advances. Then the other child, who was in another room, called out to the defendant and he went to check.
The girl sought refuge in her bedroom, locked the door and hid under the bed, but the man pried the door open. He found the girl and pushed her into a closet, where he forced himself on her. He had sex with her and left the room.
Mr. Ferguson said the matter came to light the next day when the girl told her best friend what had happened. The friend told an adult, who notified police.
When confronted, the man said, “I didn’t mean to do it, but I did … I couldn’t help myself. I know I did wrong …”
In an interview with police, he said he did not force the girl. He said he was drunk and could not remember all the details of the incident. He admitted knowing the girl was 13.
Mr. Ferguson pointed out that the maximum sentence for defilement is 12 years imprisonment, with a basic tariff of five years. In this case, the man was in a position of trust and the relationship was such that the girl called him uncle.
Defence attorney John Furniss and Mr. Ferguson both referred to a social inquiry report and a psychiatric report prepared on the defendant, with the latter describing him as a man with significant psychological problems.
He was said to have had a difficult start in life and had developed an alcohol problem. One of the reports proposed addressing his mental health and substance abuse issues through strategic intervention.
Returning the man to prison would not assist the situation, Mr. Furniss submitted, suggesting that the man could be supervised in the community and get the help he needed. He had spent eight months in custody before being bailed when the trial did not go ahead the first time. He had no previous convictions and did have a good work record.
Nobody went into great detail, but Justice Quin described the defendant’s upbringing as difficult, troublesome and disturbing, as indicated in the reports. He was frequently shuttled to different foster homes, with intermittent periods with his mother. He received minimal love and virtually no security from either parent, one result being the significant medical and emotional difficulties he now suffered.
Justice Quin also noted comments from the victim’s mother, who said that the girl “has not been the same since the incident and, in fact, the incident has caused emotional and psychological trauma to the victim and the whole family”.
The judge said the offence was serious and no one could underestimate the psychological damage and emotional trauma the young girl and her family have suffered.
He said he had taken everything into account, including the victim impact report. “What is of utmost importance is that the court must endeavour to create the circumstances to try to ensure that the defendant does not ever commit, or even contemplates committing, any such offence again,” he emphasised.
For all these reasons, he imposed the suspended sentence supervision order.