Teacher's sentence for indecent assault reduced on appeal

Court of Appeal says judge failed to mention basis of plea

The prison sentence for Delroy James, a teacher who pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting three male students, was reduced on Tuesday from three years to two years. 

James has been in custody since June 2014 and that time counts against his sentence. 

The Court of Appeal agreed with Crown counsel Toyin Salako that three years is not excessive, considering the totality of the offending. 

However, the court also agreed with attorney Nicholas Dixey that when Justice Charles Quin passed sentence, he failed to mention the basis of James’s pleas to three counts of indecent assault, one count of gross indecency and one count of having an indecent image of one of the boys on his cellphone. 

A basis of plea is not binding on a judge, Sir Bernard Rix pointed out in delivering the court’s decision. However, a judge is under a duty to make it clear if he is not prepared to accept that basis. 

In this case, the judge set out as the relevant facts what Ms. Salako had said in her opening statement to the court. 

Earlier, Ms. Salako explained that James had admitted five of the 11 charges against him and had signed a statement explaining the basis on which he was admitting them. 

Ms. Salako said she showed the basis of plea to the victims, all age 15, and their families. None of the boys agreed with James’s versions of what had happened, and the Crown did not accept James’s basis of plea. 

James then submitted a second basis of plea. Ms. Salako said the Crown still did not agree with all of it, but accepted it because the boys were embarrassed and did not want to come to court to give evidence. 

The appeal court noted that indecent assault involves touching, while gross indecency does not involved touching. Justice Quin had said three years was appropriate for indecent assault and gave a one-third discount for the guilty pleas, resulting in three two-year sentences which he ran concurrently. 

He said he had taken all the circumstances into account in arriving at this sentence. 

When he went on to consider the sentence for gross indecency, he started with a term of four-and-a-half years and reduced that to three years because of the guilty plea. 

Ms. Salako argued that three years was appropriate because it was part of the ongoing series of offending and involved one of the boys who had been indecently assaulted. 

The appeal court said the sentencing judge made no reference to the accumulation of these matters. The appeal was successful in that the sentence of three years for gross indecency was reduced to two years and all sentences were concurrent.