Rape conviction appeal dismissed

Jeffrey Barnes’s appeal of his rape conviction was dismissed on Friday in the Court of Appeal.

Justice Dennis Morrison indicated that reasons for affirming the conviction would be handed down later.

The appeal, argued by lead counsel Michael Wood, was based largely on the claim that pre-trial publicity was so prejudicial that Barnes could not have had a fair trial. A jury verdict in April 2013 was unanimous.

Barnes, 34, also appealed against the life sentence imposed by Justice Charles Quin for this conviction. The court decided to hear that appeal separately, in part because it involves a constitutional issue, on which Attorney General Samuel Bulgin might wish to make submissions as government’s principal legal adviser. Attorney Nicholas Dixey, who appeared with Mr. Wood, explained that his argument was based on Cayman’s Bill of Rights, which came into effect on Nov. 6, 2012.

Article 3 states, “No person shall be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Mr. Dixey will argue that a life sentence for rape is “inhuman punishment.”

Legislators last year debated a Conditional Release Bill, which stated, “It is now considered inhuman and degrading punishment for any person to be incarcerated for the rest of his life without the possibility of ever being released. All prisoners serving what used to be whole life terms must have a specified term of imprisonment.”

The bill, which was passed into law last October but which is not yet in effect, introduces a system that sets general guidelines for the release of all prisoners on license conditions. However, the only specified term of imprisonment set in place of life imprisonment was 30 years for murder.

No specified term was set for any other offense for which the maximum penalty is life imprisonment (such as rape, robbery, arson or treason).

Further, the Penal Code provides that, where a person is found guilty of committing a Category A offense for a second time, “the court may in its discretion sentence that person to imprisonment for life for that second offense.” A check of Cayman Compass files shows that Barnes was convicted of rape in 2001 and received a sentence of 10 years.

The 2013 jury verdict related to an incident on Oct. 20, 2011. Justice Charles Quin imposed the life sentence in September 2013.

Four months earlier, Justice Alexander Henderson had sentenced Barnes to 15 years for a rape that occurred on Oct. 29, 2011. He indicated at the time that the appropriate sentence was 20 years, but gave a discount for Barnes’s guilty plea. For the appeal against conviction, the Crown’s response was presented by Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards, assisted by Crown counsel Candia James.

The third judge for the court was Sir Richard Field.

Compass journalist Brent Fuller contributed to this report.

“All prisoners serving what used to be whole life terms must have a specified term of imprisonment.”