Grand Court Justice Marva McDonald-Bishop issued Cayman’s first Sexual Harm Prevention Order on Friday when she sentenced Ronnie Rodney Ebanks, 49, to six years imprisonment for indecent assault.
Senior Crown Counsel Candia James asked for the order after advising that this conviction was Ebanks’s third sexual offense. She said Ebanks had been convicted of rape in February 2000, when he was sentenced to 14 years, which was reduced on appeal to 12 years. Released in June 2009, he committed a burglary with intent to rape within a few weeks. He pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and released in May 2016.
The offense that brought him to court the third time was the indecent assault in February 2017. He pleaded not guilty and elected trial by judge alone: he was found guilty in September, with sentencing adjourned for various reports.
Ms. James referred to the defendant’s pattern of offending: all three offenses involved him entering the victim’s premises at night while she was asleep. The first woman was a resident domestic helper. The second and third were visitors to the island, staying in a seaside condo.
Ms. James said Mr. Ebanks was a risk to the public, especially women.
She explained that Cayman’s legislature passed an amendment to the Penal Code in March providing for a sexual harm prevention order. It provides that a court has to be satisfied on a balance of probabilities that such an order is necessary to protect the public or a particular member of the public from sexual harm from an offender, or protect children or vulnerable persons from harm from that offender. The harm may be physical or psychological.
The order prohibits the offender from doing anything described in the order for at least five years.
Ms. James submitted a draft order for the judge’s consideration. Justice McDonald-Bishop asked if such an order had been made by any other court. Ms. James said this would be the first. After further discussion and reference to the law, the judge said she formed the view that this was a case in which such an order would be appropriate and would go a long way in protecting women. “You are recognized as a sexual predator,” she told Mr. Ebanks.
The order will start when he is released from prison.
The first condition is that Mr. Ebanks may not attend at any residential property or premises between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. without express invitation from the residents of the property or unless he has a lawful reason for attending there. “Residential property or premises” includes hotels, resorts. stratas, apartment buildings, dwelling houses or any premises where persons normally reside, whether permanently or temporarily.
Second, he shall not loiter around any such property between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Third and fourth, he must notify the Commissioner of Police of his place of residence and associated phone numbers in writing within 48 hours of his release from prison and within 48 hours before making any change.
Fifth, he must notify the police commissioner in writing, and at least three days in advance, of any departure from the Cayman Islands for a period of 14 days or more, with specific details as to locations and accommodations.
Sixth, he must notify the police commissioner in writing of any changes to, or applications for, any identity documents; the notice must be in advance.
Ms. James asked that the order be for the maximum 10 years, but the judge allowed it for seven years following his release. She pointed out that either the Crown or the defendant could apply to the court to have that time varied.
Mr. Ebanks was warned that failure to comply with the order could result in a further prison sentence of up to four years.
As to the sentence for the indecent assault, Ms. James said the maximum is 10 years and guideline range of sentence is three to seven years.
In this case, the aggravating features included Mr. Ebanks’ previous convictions and his mentioning to the woman that he had a gun. In a victim impact report, the woman said she had trouble sleeping, she suffered panic attacks and was taking anti-anxiety medication.
In her sentencing remarks, Justice McDonald-Bishop referred to other effects on the victim; she got a gun to enhance her sense of safety; her family had been coming to Cayman for 30 years, but she now was reluctant to return; she had been the rock of her family, but now was not so strong.
Defense attorney Ben Tonner had urged the court to consider that although the assault included the threat of a weapon, no actual weapon was produced. He noted that indecent assault can cover a wide range of offending, but Mr. Ebanks’s assault was not as intrusive as some and the incident was of short duration.
The evidence was that the woman had awakened to find someone standing over her. His face was covered and he was touching himself. He took her hand and forced her to stroke him. He told her to do other things, but she resisted. After he left, she phoned 911. When police arrived they took swabs from her and her clothing. The swabs contained DNA that matched Mr. Ebanks.
Justice McDonald-Bishop said the aggravating features pushed the sentence to the eight-year level, but she agreed with some of the mitigating factors. She pointed out that Mr. Ebanks had spared the woman the trauma of giving evidence in his trial, since the defense had accepted that her statement could be read.
The judge then considered that no less than seven years would be appropriate, but settled on six years because the application for the sexual harm prevention order should keep females protected from Mr. Ebanks, she concluded.
She granted credit for time in custody.