Court of appeal welcomes new sentencing guidelines
A sentence of three years and seven months was not manifestly excessive even after a guilty plea to the offense of defilement, the Court of Appeal ruled last week.
The court dismissed the appeal of Shankino Ebanks, who was sentenced in November 2014 by Justice Charles Quin.
Attorney Michael Snape argued that the judge did not give enough credit for Ebanks’s guilty plea and failed to give sufficient consideration to his difficult background.
Justice Sir Alan Moses delivered the court’s ruling, noting, “The facts were all too familiar of a man substantially older than the victim, who was under 16.”
The girl was 15 years and seven months old and Ebanks was 29. “It is just that disparity in age, across which the relationship occurs, that this law is designed to prevent,” Justice Moses said.
The court accepted that Ebanks had a background of being abused himself and was in a difficult relationship with a woman with whom he had three children. Despite these difficulties, he had never been accused of any sexual offense before.
It was accepted by all parties that the girl had entered into the relationship willingly. The first time she and Ebanks were intimate, he did not know she was under 16. By the second time, however, he knew her true age.
The court said Justice Quin referred to Cayman guidelines and a starting point of five years “for offenses of this sort which are, understandably and rightfully, regarded as more serious than they might be regarded in other jurisdictions.”
He emphasized that the court welcomed recently announced sentencing guidelines that will take the same form as U.K. guidelines. “We would underline their importance in future consideration of sentences. We have no doubt they will not be applied in a mechanical, rigid way and will always allow for flexibility so that appropriate sentences, either higher or lower than given starting points, of course will apply.”
The court rejected the submission that Justice Quin had been too rigid in his approach. He had reduced his starting point to four years and explained why. The reduction for a guilty plea was small because the plea came on the day the trial was to start.
The appeal court pointed out that Ebanks himself knew better than anyone else what the true facts were and that he had no answer to the charge against him.
It was agreed that the age difference was the most aggravating factor. Ebanks’s offending did not involve targeting or aggression or seduction as these cases sometimes do, Justice Moses commented during submissions.