Errington Webster, found guilty of indecency charges in June, has had his sentencing hearing postponed until Sept. 14.
Webster has been in custody since a jury returned guilty verdicts on three counts of indecent assault on a girl who was 13 at the time, and one count of gross indecency. The girl recorded the indecent act on her cellphone and that video was part of the Crown’s evidence.
On Thursday, Justice Charles Quin said the sentencing was not straightforward. He indicated that Webster, 55, faced the possibility of a long term of imprisonment, a cost order, and a request for conditions after release from custody.
Crown counsel Darlene Oko, who conducted the prosecution’s case, said she would be making a request for what happens to Webster after he serves his sentence.
One way of doing this was made possible by an amendment to the Penal Code, passed by the previous legislature on May 18. It provides that an application may be made to the court for a sexual harm prevention order. The court would have to be satisfied that the order is necessary to protect the public or a particular member of the public or to protect children or vulnerable persons. The sexual harm could be physical or psychological.
Such an order would prohibit the person who is before the court from doing anything described in the order. It could include conditions that the court considered necessary, such as prohibition of travel both within and outside these islands.
The cost order relates to expenses incurred because Webster called an expert witness who explained the defense of automatism – Webster acting involuntarily and being 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.
Ms. Oko called a psychiatrist and a forensic toxicologist to reply to this testimony. She is seeking reimbursement to the Crown for these added costs.
The hearing on Thursday began with defense attorney Steve McField advising the court that he was not going to continue with the matter. He said he had read the pre-sentencing reports and Webster was blaming him for editing out evidence without Webster’s permission. “But that part of the evidence was completely inadmissible,” Mr. McField explained.
Justice Quin said that as far as he was concerned, Mr. McField had conducted a vigorous and proper defense, covering every point. He said nobody could criticize Mr. McField or Ms. Oko for the way they conducted their case. “You were extremely well prepared,” he told the defense attorney.
At the end of the day it was for the jury to decide what they accepted and what they did not accept, the judge continued. From what he had read in the report, Webster was far more critical of the jury than he was of his attorney. There was the complainant’s account and the defendant’s account – the jury had accepted the complainant’s account. “Subject to any appeal, that’s where we are today,” he summarized.
“I would urge you to stay,” he told Mr. McField.
The attorney said if he did, it would be on the court’s behalf. In any event, he had received the Crown’s sentencing submissions just the day before and so would need time to study them and respond.
Justice Quin said the court was extremely grateful to have Mr. McField stay in the matter because he knew the case better than anybody.