Unanimous verdict in jury trial
A man found guilty of indecently assaulting his teenage niece was sentenced this week to 12 months’ imprisonment.
Jurors returned a unanimous verdict in August after hearing the girl’s account of how the man had touched her when he came into the bed where she was sleeping.
In passing sentence, Justice Charles Quin commended the girl “for having the courage to come forward and also for giving her evidence in court in such a straightforward manner.” She was 15 at the time of the assault.
Justice Quin cited U.K. sentencing guidelines which, he noted, have been accepted by Cayman’s Court of Appeal and Grand Court for indecent assault sentences.
“The guidelines state that the effects of sexual offending may be physical and/or psychological,” he said. “The physical effects … may be very serious. The psychological effects may be equally or even more serious, but much less obvious at the time of sentencing.”
Justice Quin said he had to examine the exact nature of the sexual activity, and this would be the starting point in assessing the seriousness of the sexual assault.
In this case, the man used his hand to touch the girl’s upper and lower body. When the girl awoke and realized what was happening she was at first terrified and froze, but then told him to stop. He did, and left the room.
There was an absence of aggravating factors, the judge noted.
The incident occurred at night, while the girl was staying at the man’s house because she was friends with her cousin, the man’s daughter. There was evidence that he had encouraged her to stay over.
The man admitted the incident had occurred, but said he thought it was his wife in the bedroom on the night in question and he had made a terrible mistake. He also said he had consumed quite a few beers that night.
Although the man had previous convictions, none was for anything of a sexual nature and the latest were for ganja 10 years ago. He had been injured on a job site and now worked mainly at home.
Sentencing was postponed for a social inquiry report and then a psychological examination.
Dr. Clement von Kirchenheim was of the view that the defendant suffered from depression, anxiety and some interpersonal distrust and conflict.
The judge referred to Dr. von Kirchenheim’s report that there was also evidence of very specific impairment in the area of verbal reasoning and problem-solving. Most importantly, “the area of the brain that is primarily involved with those functions is the most susceptible to severe alcohol abuse,” he quoted.
The defendant has been advised to either give up alcohol completely or minimize his intake.
Given the type of touching that occurred, the duration of the incident and the age of the girl, the starting point for sentencing was 12 months, with a range from 26 weeks to two years’ custody. Given the factors as reviewed above and the probation officers’ assessment that the man was unlikely to commit this type of offense again, the judge imposed 12 months.