A 55-year-old man from a Northeastern community in Dominica is an inmate at the Dominica State Prison for the next four years, nine months and three weeks following his conviction of unlawful sexual connection and indecent assault against his niece.
The man pleaded not guilty to both charges and as such, the matter was tried by a nine member jury who found him guilty on March 22, 2021, of both offenses.
According to the facts of the case, during the early morning of October 19, 2017, the then 8-year-old victim was awakened by her uncle touching her breast and then inserting his finger in her vagina.
Following his conviction, Attorney-at-Law Dawn Yearwood Stewart had pleaded with the court to not impose a custodial sentence however, State attorney Daina Matthew told the court that, given the circumstances, the offender should be sent to prison.
In handing down her sentence on May 7, 2021, Justice Wynante Adrien-Roberts sided with the prosecution and imposed a custodial sentence.
She said the aggravating factors which lead to her decision were the fact that the said crime was committed in the presence of another individual, that is, the aunt of the child who also sleeps in the same room with her baby; the offenders abuse of his position of trust; the fact that he is of the same family as the victim and also because the victim is a minor.
The maximum penalty for unlawful sexual connection is 14 years in prison whilst indecent assault carries a penalty of 10 years in prison.
In establishing the starting point for the offenses, Justice Adrien-Roberts stated that she considered the harm caused to the victim as the child says she feels scared that the same actions may be repeated and she finds it difficult to trust people.
“Under cross-examination, the victim stated [that] during the incident she felt uncomfortable, annoyed and vexed,” the Judge said.
As a result, these consequences, the victim’s age and her feelings, the Judge said, casuse the case to fall in the category of exceptional.
Justice Adrien-Roberts said she categorised the case as high in terms of its seriousness because of the presence of the following factors: the defendant made contact with the victim’s genitals, the abuse of his position of trust and the significant disparity in age. In light of this, she gave a starting point of nine years for unlawful sexual connection and six years for indecent assault.
In adjusting the sentence, the aggravating and mitigating factors were further taken into consideration.
An aggravating factor for the offender which the Judge said went against him is his continued claim of innocence which according to her, is a lack of remorse. Consequently, three months were added to each charge.
With regard to the mitigating factors for the offender, the convict’s good character was considered and the sentence was reduced by two years which brought it to seven years and three months for unlawful sexual connection and four years and three months for indecent assault.
Justice Adrien-Roberts also noted that consideration was given to whether the sentence should run consecutively or concurrently. She informed the court that in cases where an offender is convicted for more than one offense, tried at the same time and where more than one offense arises from the same incident, the general rule is that the sentence is to run concurrently.
However, considering the principle of totality, she said a custodial sentence of 5 years is reasonable in the circumstances of this case.
Having spent 67 days on remand, the convict’s sentence was therefore reduced to four years, nine months and three weeks.