A father of 11 residing in Marigot, Paul Guiste has been sentenced to prison for four years, eight months and 21 days following his guilty plea to Unlawful Sexual Connection (USC) and indecent assault against a 19-year-old girl.
On May 9, 2018, at about 5:30 a.m. at Marigot, the Virtual Complainant (VC) left her home to run an errand in the village. She stopped a passenger bus which was driven by Guiste.
There he propositioned her for sexual favours offering her $40.00 but she stated to him, “I don’t do sex for money.”
The VC entered the bus and Guiste drove off at high speed causing her to fall back and hit her head on the seat of the bus.
The victim’s evidence further stated that the then 52-year-old man drove to an isolated area known as the Farm Road in Marigot where he switched off his engine and then pried open her legs with one hand and the other he used to masturbate.
Guiste then locked the young adult inside the bus and stepped away to answer a call at which time she stated she was scared and started panicking.
Upon his return to the bus, he then pried open her legs and performed oral sex on her. He then attempted to initiate intercourse without her consent but stopped after the victim pleaded with him.
Following his guilty pleas to the court on June 2, 2021, the Judge ordered a Social Inquiry report and submissions from the State and defense attorney which Justice Wynante Adrien-Roberts said was used in constructing her sentence.
While Justice Adrien-Roberts said judicial authorities set the maximum penalty for the offense of USC at 14 years imprisonment and indecent assault at 5 years if committed on a person 16 years and older, she explained that views held by the public that the maximum penalty set by law is the penalty that must be imposed on a defendant are a “gross misconception.’”
“The maximum sentence can only be imposed in cases considered the worst of the worst,” the Judge explained.
However, she stated the starting point of the sentence must be established upon application of the sexual offenses guideline which prescribes a six-step process for arriving at the sentence.
In establishing the starting point for the offense, Justice Adrien-Roberts said the court assessed the evidence and factored in the harm caused to the victim.
In the report by the welfare officer, the victim said she was traumatized and scared as she never expected Guiste to assault her because he was a family friend whom she trusted.
She stated further that she was ridiculed by members of her community who called her insulting names saying that she falsified her report of abuse on the basis that the defendant did not provide her with the money that she requested.
Although the incident occurred four years ago, the victim said she is still embarrassed and trying to come to terms with the ordeal of the assault.
The court held that given the significant force used by the defendant, the fact that contact was made with her genitals, the abuse of trust and money offered to the VC to not report the matter and the disparity in age, Justice Adrien-Roberts said the offense fell in the category two, high.
She then established a starting point of 45% of the maximum sentence, six years, three months, and 18 days for the offense of USC and two years and three months for the offense of indecent assault.
The court found no aggravating or mitigating factors for the offense as the Judge informed that some were considered in establishing the starting point.
However as it relates to the aggravating and mitigating factors affecting the offender, Justice Adrien-Roberts told, the fact that Guiste had one previous conviction and his lack of remorse as he maintained his innocence following his guilty plea, the sentence was adjusted upwards by 6 months to reflect the aggravating factors of the offender.
Although defense counsel for the offender, Wayne Norde said the defendant’s illiteracy should be considered as a mitigating factor, and his financial responsibility to some of his 11 children, the court did not consider this as a mitigating factor and found no mitigating factors relevant to the defendant.
The sentence then stood at six years, nine months, and 18 days for USC and two years, six months for indecent assault.
While it is mandated to give credit of one-third discount, to all defendants who plead guilty, such reduction was not applicable in Guiste’s case as he had only pleaded guilty after the jury was empaneled on the date that his trial was expected to begin. Nevertheless, Justice Adrien-Roberts said by so doing Guiste saved judicial time and resources.
His sentence was therefore reduced by 30%, USC four years, nine months and five days, and one year nine months for the offense of indecent assault.
At step four of the sentence, the court adjusted the sentence on the principle of totality and considered whether the sentence should run concurrently or consecutively.
The judge said because the offense arose from the same incident, the sentences will run concurrently (to be served at the same time).
Full credit was given to the defendant for his time served on remand which was 14 days. Accordingly, the sentence of the court stood at four years, eight months, and 21 days.