Jeffrey Barnes has lost his appeal against the sentence of life imprisonment for rape.
The Court of Appeal heard arguments on April 11 and released its judgment on April 21.
Barnes was 33 when he received the sentence from Justice Charles Quin after trial by jury in 2013 for an aggravated burglary and rape that occurred on Oct. 20, 2011.
The Court of Appeal said Justice Quin’s sentencing remarks were “very full and careful.”
The sentence was imposed under a provision of the Penal Code which permits a life sentence if a person is convicted after Aug. 31, 2004 of a second category A offense.
Barnes had been found guilty of another rape in 2001, so the provision applied to him.
Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards had also noted during the hearing that Barnes was convicted and sentenced for a third rape, which was committed on Oct. 29, 2011. It was prosecuted first because the victim made her report first. In that incident, the victim was compelled to enter Barnes’s vehicle and then taken to a secluded area where the rape and an attempted rape occurred. Barnes had pleaded guilty and Justice Alexander Henderson sentenced him to 15 years, saying it would have been 20 if not for the guilty plea.
Further, Ms. Richards advised, Barnes’s Oct. 20, 2011 offending had occurred six months after he was released from prison after serving a sentence for indecent assault.
Defense attorney Nicholas Dixey had argued that a life sentence was manifestly excessive and wrong in law. He urged the court to substitute a term of 20 years. He described life as “the sentence of last resort.”
Justice John Martin wrote the Court of Appeal’s judgment on behalf of himself, Justice Dennis Morrison and Justice Richard Field.
He first cited the circumstances of the crime for which the life sentence was imposed – entry into the woman’s home by night with a knife; holding the knife to her throat, using it to cut off her clothes and later putting it between her legs and threatening to cut her; three penetrations, including anal.
When the woman told Barnes she had to go to work, he told her to act normal and not tell anyone what had happened. She did tell her employer, stayed away from her home that night and left the island the next morning. She later reported the incident to police; officers went to her apartment and found DNA which matched Barnes’s. The woman also described tattoos on her attacker’s body; photographs of Barnes showed such markings.
In a victim impact statement, the woman spoke of her fear, continuing nightmares and trouble trusting people. At trial, she had been ashamed to say out loud what he had done to her. “I came to the Cayman Islands to make my life better, and in coming here my life has been ruined,” she said.
Justice Martin said Barnes’s offenses were undoubtedly very serious, with many aggravating features. He said Justice Quin was plainly entitled to take the view that Barnes “would remain a serious danger to the public for an indefinite period.”
Justice Martin quoted from a U.K. case: “It is sometimes impossible to say when that danger will subside, and therefore an indeterminate sentence is required, so that the prisoner’s progress may be monitored by those who have him under supervision in prison, and so that he will be kept in custody only so long as public safety may be jeopardized by his being let loose at large.”
The appeal judge said Justice Quin’s conclusion was warranted by Barnes’s attitude, recorded in his psychological evaluation, “that when refused sex by females he met socially he becomes frustrated and ‘takes it,’ and by his admission (recorded in the same document) that he feels a sense of pleasure from taking sex by force.”
Mr. Dixey had submitted the appeal last year, with one ground being that a life sentence was incompatible with Cayman’s Bill of Rights. Since then, however, the Conditional Release Law has come into effect. It provides that all prisoners serving what used to be whole life terms must have a specified term of imprisonment.