Offender gets nine months, no compensation ordered
Bianca Vega, 21, was sentenced on Friday to serve nine months in prison for wounding a man at a dominoes party with a knife she carried for protection.
Her victim, Norman Christopher McLaughlin, was stabbed twice in the chest, with one of the wounds resulting in a collapsed lung. In a victim impact statement read to the court, he described being bed ridden after leaving hospital, having a drain in his chest for several weeks, experiencing shortness of breath and “the anguish of a $9,000 medical bill”.
In a judge-alone trial, Justice Michael Mettyear found Vega not guilty of wounding with intent to cause serious bodily harm, but guilty of wounding. He asked about the prevalence of knife crimes. He said it was recognised in the UK that knife crimes had become a particular problem, to the extent that the tariff had gone up from 15 to 25 years. In Cayman, the maximum for wounding is seven years [as distinct from wounding with intent].
Defence attorney Lucy Organ emphasised the lack of premeditation and her client’s remorse. There had been an argument at the social gathering in December 2011, and Vega’s response “went over the top”, she acknowledged.
Vega was working and willing to pay compensation, her attorney continued. She had $500 with her that day and estimated she could pay $300 per month. She was the primary care giver for her child, who was born in 2012, although she had good emotional support from her family and the child’s father has a visiting relationship. Incarceration for Vega would mean damage inflicted on the child, Ms Organ submitted.
She agreed with senior crown counsel Elisabeth Lees that the sentencing range was 18 to 24 months, but she pointed out that the judge could suspend part or all of that term.
Justice Mettyear said this case was a good example of the danger that exists in carrying a knife. Experience has shown that people who carry them are ready to use them, he noted. If Vega had not carried a knife that night, there would have been little or no injury to anyone, he said.
Anyone carrying a knife and prepared to use it must expect imprisonment, the judge continued; the court had to send a clear and consistent message.
He noted Vega’s youth, lack of any conviction for violence, and position as main but not sole care giver of her child.
He said he would not be doing his duty to the public if he did not impose a custodial sentence. He made that nine months.
Asked about compensation, Ms Lees said he could extend Vega’s time to pay after her release from prison.
Ms Organ objected, pointing out that Vega would lose her job and there was no guarantee she would get another one.
Justice Mettyear decided he was not making a compensation order; the matter could be pursued in the civil courts if the victim wished.
Ms Lees noted the exact sum of total medical bills was $9,026.90.