Christine Rae-Smith, found guilty in 2016 for her role in the robbery of a beauty salon, lost her appeal on Wednesday against a sentence of a 12-year prison term.
Ms. Rae-Smith, the former personal assistant to two George Town MLAs, had denied any involvement in the crime, saying she was at Elegant Nails & More on the evening of July 10, 2015, as a customer. At her judge-alone trial, Justice Charles Quin pointed to the 11 texts she had exchanged with Paul Winston Myles in the 12 or 13 minutes before the robbery.
Mr. Myles, 41, had pleaded guilty to his role in the robbery as the getaway driver, although he later tried to change his plea. He was sentenced to nine years and that term was not disturbed.
The third appellant, Antonio Elvis Kelly, received a reduction from eight years to seven after the Court of Appeal judges noted his young age, 18, at the time of the robbery.
All three were sentenced on three counts of robbery and possession of an imitation firearm with intent to commit an offense. The three counts pertained to the co-owner and two women who were in the salon at the time. Mr. Kelly and another person, dressed in black and carrying what appeared to be firearms, entered and stole cellphones, jewelry and a total of $693 by means of putting the women in fear of being subjected to force.
One of the robbers asked the owner for “the pouch” that had contained the day’s earnings, but the owner had given that money to an employee who left the salon a few minutes before the robbers entered.
At her trial, Ms. Rae-Smith maintained she also was a victim, saying she had surrendered her watch, a cellphone and $50 to the robbers. She did not appeal her conviction.
During the robbery, she had challenged the gunmen, and one of the victims thought that this brazen act would get them all killed. “It was a terrifying experience they will never forget,” Justice Quin said when passing sentence.
Attorneys for the three appellants pointed out that there were no victim impact reports for the sentencing court to consider. Attorney Lee Halliday-Davis, speaking for Ms. Rae-Smith, submitted that there was no physical or psychological harm to the victims over and above what is inherent in a robbery situation.
She suggested a starting point of five years and pointed to her client’s previous good character. Further, Ms. Rae-Smith had a number of medical conditions that made incarceration more difficult for her.
Attorney Amelia Fosuhene emphasized Mr. Myles’s early cooperation and assistance in recovering one of the cellphones used in the incident.
Attorney Prathna Bodden urged the court to consider Mr. Kelly’s youth.
Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran accepted that there was no evidence of Mr. Kelly being involved in the planning of the robbery. There had been just one call between his phone and that of Mr. Myles, he told the court.
Court president Sir John Goldring heard the appeals with Justice John Martin and Justice Sir Richard Field. In announcing their decisions, Justice Goldring said there was one ground of appeal common to all three of the convicted persons – the degree of harm caused.
He said the court could do no better than rely on Justice Quin’s summary of the robbery. He had called it “a terrifying experience” the women would never forget. It had not been a case of an armed robber entering, taking cash and leaving – it had been a prolonged experience, with the two robbers wearing masks, pointing guns in the victims’ faces and ordering them around. When Ms. Rae-Smith challenged the robbers, knowing she was safe, the other women screamed and cried for fear that she would get them killed.
The appeals court concluded there was sufficient evidence for the sentencing judge to infer that it was inconceivable that the women did not suffer harm above what is inherent in the offense of robbery. Moreover, the judge was entitled to infer that the robbers had intended to steal the day’s takings. In short, the judge was entitled to take nine years as his starting point, with a range of seven to 12 years. He was also entitled to take the view that Ms. Rae-Smith’s medical condition did not warrant a lesser sentence, the court ruled.
After the court’s decisions, Ms. Fosuhene pointed to an error in the summary of facts as set out in the reasons for judgment. She said Mr. Myles was not one of the persons who went inside the premises to commit the robbery; he was the driver. Mr. Moran noted that Mr. Myles had originally told police he was one of the robbers.
The appeal judges adjourned to consider whether this fact made any difference, but they concluded that the robbery was a joint enterprise. Mr. Myles had taken two men to the salon armed with weapons which, on the face of it, he had provided. The judge was perfectly entitled to pass the sentence he did, the court concluded, and there was no basis to change it.
In a separate matter, Mr. Kelly also appealed his sentence of four years’ imprisonment for causing the death of Jordan Anthony Ebanks by careless driving on Nov. 17, 2013. He was 17 when he drove Mr. Ebanks’s car and hit a wall on Old Robin Road in North Side.
He initially told police that Mr. Ebanks had grabbed the steering wheel, causing him to lose control. Later, he said he had been trying to roll a spliff of ganja. He was driving approximately 85 mph in a 30-mph zone and never had a driver’s license.
The court reduced this sentence by nine months, with the final result that he will serve three years and three months for this offense after the seven years for the robbery.