Former political candidate Errington Webster was found guilty Tuesday afternoon on three counts of indecent assault on a girl of 13 and one count of gross indecency.
Jurors took just under two and a half hours to find Webster guilty of the charges.
He was remanded in custody. Defense attorney Steve McField requested bail pending sentencing, but Justice Charles Quin said the seriousness of the offenses warranted immediate custody.
Mr. McField also asked for a pre-sentence social inquiry report. Justice Quin said he would also order a victim impact statement.
Sentencing was set for Aug. 16, but will be brought forward if reports can be completed earlier.
Family members, one of whom wept loudly, shared hugs and a few words with Webster before he descended into the cells at the court building.
Justice Quin began his summing up at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday and sent the jury out to begin deliberations at 1 p.m. They returned their verdicts at 3:20 p.m.
In his summing up, the judge reminded the five women and two men that they had heard two weeks of evidence pertaining to the counts of indecent assault and the one count of gross indecency – an act the girl recorded on her phone in June 2016. Webster, 55, pleaded not guilty to all charges, saying the first three never happened. For the gross indecency, defense attorney brought an expert witness, psychiatrist Dr. Marc Lockhart, who explained his conclusion that Webster was in a state of delirium at the time of the act.
Justice Quin explained the defense of automatism as Webster acting involuntarily and unable to exercise any control over his actions. This condition was said to have been brought about by the interaction of his blood pressure medication with grapefruit juice and other ingredients in a “belly fat flush” drink he had been taking the day the girl took the video.
Crown counsel Darlene Oko called a psychiatrist and a forensic toxicologist to reply to Dr. Lockhart’s testimony.
Justice Quin pointed out that experts are called to assist jurors because they provide scientific information which would not be part of the ordinary person’s experience. They are entitled to state their opinion, but their evidence is only part of the whole, the judge explained.
If after careful consideration jurors did not accept the experts’ evidence, they were free to reject it. Jurors remained “the ultimate arbiters,” he said.
Justice Quin reminded them of Webster’s good character and the work he had done in his community.
Ms. Oko had asked the defendant how he could have given the girl over $1,000 when he received a pension of $1,300 per month. Webster had replied that he had savings. He said he had given money to a lot of people; he wanted to win their votes.
Webster was an unsuccessful candidate for Bodden Town in the 2013 elections. He apparently planned to run in 2017; he had told Dr. Lockhart that the video of him touching himself “must have been fabricated to get me out of the election.”
Justice Quin also gave the jury directions on lies and credibility, since the Crown alleged that the defendant was lying and the defense alleged that the complainant was lying. He suggested that jurors look at the plausibility of what was said, whether it was consistent in itself, consistent with other evidence, and whether it was biased. He suggested that jurors also consider the demeanor of Webster and the girl as they gave their evidence.
Since the trial began, Justice Quin had reminded jurors every day to pay no attention to any media reports about the matter.
After the verdicts were delivered, Inspector Kevin Ashworth of the police’s Family Support Unit said police welcomed the verdicts and acknowledged the bravery of the teenaged girl for testifying in the case. He encouraged any other young people who have experienced any form of abuse to follow her example and contact the Department of Children and Family Services, the police, or any other trusted source.
He described the case as a challenging and complex one, adding that the service of justice is paramount in any cases involving crimes against children and that investigators are working with the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub, together with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to pursue such cases.