Former political candidate Errington Webster was sentenced Tuesday to serve an immediate prison sentence of six years, following his convictions after trial last year for three counts of indecent assault and one count of gross indecency involving a young teenaged girl.
Justice Charles Quin said there were several aggravating features to the offenses, including the difference in age between Mr. Webster, 55, and his victim, who was 13 at the time of the incidents.
The incidents leading to the charges occurred over a six-month period in 2015/16. During that time, Mr. Webster bought the girl food, clothing, and a cellphone that cost $600. He agreed during his trial that he had done so, but said it was because he was counseling her.
The judge said there had been a significant degree of planning and grooming by the defendant, who had targeted a particularly vulnerable young girl. In addition, because of his position of leadership in the community, there was an abuse of trust.
The offenses came to light after the girl made a video on her phone of Mr. Webster touching himself and asking her to touch him and spit on him while they were in his truck parked on an isolated road. The jury saw the video.
The girl’s evidence was that two of the indecent assaults had also occurred in the truck on the same road, while the first took place in Mr. Webster’s home.
What was “deeply unattractive,” the judge said, was that Mr. Webster blamed everybody but himself for his convictions. He blamed his attorney, the jury, the judicial system, and the victim herself.
He had told the probation officer interviewing him that what the victim’s conscience did from here on, “only the Almighty can help her with that.” The judge said there was a complete lack of empathy for the victim and a complete rejection of responsibility for the impact of the events on the victim.
A victim impact report indicated that the girl no longer trusted men and did not like being in their company. She felt that everyone was judgmental toward her, so she no longer trusted people. The writer of the report said that the girl had suffered trauma but fortunately remained strong-willed, so hopefully she would overcome her suffering.
Justice Quin noted that the maximum sentence in Cayman for indecent assault is 10 years and he imposed a term of five years for each of these charges against Mr. Webster. The maximum for gross indecency is 12 years and he imposed six years. All sentences are to run concurrently.
Crown counsel Darlene Oko, who had conducted the prosecution’s case, asked last week for a “sexual harm prevention order” to be made in respect of Mr. Webster’s behavior after he is released from prison. The law making such an order possible was passed in May 2017.
Justice Quin found that he did not have the jurisdiction or the power to make such an order because Mr. Webster’s offending had occurred before the law was passed.
He said it was a fundamental rule of English and Cayman law that no statute shall be construed as being retrospective unless it is specifically stated. U.K. legislation authorizing sexual harm prevention orders specifically said that it pertained to acts, behaviors, findings and convictions, including those that had occurred before the law was amended.
“We have no equivalent in our law,” the judge said. If the intent of the Legislative Assembly was for the new amendment to operate retrospectively, it should have had a provision similar to the U.K. law, he said. Without such a provision, it was his view that he did not have power to make an order.
In handing down the six-year sentence, the judge said Mr. Webster would received credit for the time he has been in custody since his conviction. Defense Attorney Jonathon Hughes asked that he also receive credit for the time he was under house arrest before his trial. The judge asked him and Ms. Oko to confer and see if they agreed on how much time that was.
Ms. Oko had previously advised the court that she would be seeking costs from Mr. Webster because the Crown had to bring two expert witnesses to rebut his defense at trial – that grapefruit juice had interacted with his blood pressure medication and produced a state of automatism, such that he would not have known what he was doing.
That hearing on costs has not yet been held.