A teacher’s aide who pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting four primary schoolgirls was sentenced on Tuesday to nine months’ immediate imprisonment with a further 15 months under a suspended sentence supervision order.
Magistrate Angelyn Hernandez said a strong message of deterrence had to be sent because of the prevalence of this type of offense.
The offenses occurred at a government primary school between October and November 2014. The magistrate prohibited publication of the defendant’s name and that of the school in order to protect the identity of the victims.
The girls ranged in age from 6 to 10. When the defendant was first brought to court in the summer of 2015, he was 19.
Defense attorney Laura Larner accepted the aggravating features of the offending: the girls were vulnerable because of their age; the offenses took place at their school; they were assaulted on multiple occasions; and the defendant was in a position of trust.
The magistrate emphasized that the defendant was an authority figure. Given the age of the girls, she said, she found that there was no distinction in their minds between a teacher and a teacher’s aide.
The offending behavior came to light when a volunteer for after-school activities noticed certain behavior and reported it.
In mitigation, Ms. Larner referred to reports by various professionals who described the defendant as “much younger socially than his age;” someone who suffered from an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder that affected his impulse control and general development; someone who felt lonely and isolated.
A psychiatrist reported that he was more like an 8-to-10-year-old in his responses to her questions.
Another psychiatrist concluded that the defendant’s psychological state made the school setting inappropriate for him. He said the defendant had distorted ideas of friendship and relationships.
Ms. Larner said the defendant had been placed in a position he should never have been in, had his issues been explored beforehand.
She suggested that an exclusion order and curfew could meet the justice of the case so that the defendant received the help he needs. “If he goes to prison, he will deteriorate,” she told the court.
She suggested two courses of treatment, both of which the defendant’s family were willing to pay for. One was residential, in the U.K. The other was a local program, adapted by an on-island counselor using aspects of the prison treatment program for sex offenders. This treatment would consist of 90 days per eight treatment modules, which the defendant would take part in over a two-year period, attending three times a week.
Ms. Larner asked for credit for the defendant’s eventual pleas, even though they had not been given early in the proceedings. He did not remember which girl was which, but he had wanted to be accurate, she explained.
Crown counsel Eleanor Fargin said the Crown was not producing any evidence to contradict the assertion that the defendant would not be able to function in incarceration. In passing sentence, the magistrate said the starting point was three years, but she was giving credit for the guilty pleas, which had saved the girls and their families from going through the trauma of giving evidence. She also considered victim impact reports: three of the girls seemed to be doing well; one was concerned that she would be blamed and now had difficulty trusting adults.
The magistrate said the offenses had to be denounced, but the court also had to consider rehabilitation. Therefore, after serving nine months, the defendant will be under a suspended sentence supervision order for the 15 months remaining of the two-year sentence. During that time, he will observe a 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. curfew and attend the sex offender rehabilitation program as described by Ms. Larner.
He is not to have any contact with the victims or their families. He is also not to have contact with any children under the age of 13 unless in the course of ordinary daily conduct, and he is not to go within 100 yards of a primary school or preschool.