Saturday 20 April, 2019

66-Year-Old Dennery Man Sentenced to Seven Years for Manslaughter

Two years after being arrested and charged for the murder of Cleton Justin, a man in his mid-sixties has been sentenced to seven years by High Court Judge Georgis Taylor-Alexander.

Raymond Popo of Dennery, who at the time of his arraignment had pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter, was sentenced for the crime last month.

Although noting that the offence of manslaughter carries a maximum penalty on indictment of a life imprisonment, the judge took several factors in consideration in her decision on the sentencing, one such factor being the oral submissions by Jeannot-Michel Walters, attorney for Popo and Daarsrean Greene, the Director of Public Prosecutions for the crown, both submitting that the established benchmark in this jurisdiction for manslaughter being 15 years.

She said this was confirmed in the Criminal Appeals of Hilary Tench v the Queen Criminal Appeal No 1 of 1991, Johnathan St. Rose v the Queen Criminal Appeal No 1 of 2016 and Kenneth Samuel v the Queen Criminal Appeal No 7 of 2005. Judge Taylor-Alexander also said that she was guided by the established judicial principles of sentencing laid down in R v Sergeant and re-stated by the OECS Court of Appeal in Desmond Baptiste et al v The Queen.

“These are stated to be Retribution, Deterrence, Prevention and Rehabilitation. These are the principles that a sentencing judge is required to keep at the forefront of his or her mind when he or she presides over sentencing. As to which of these principles prevail in this case, I have had due regard to the victim impact statement and the cry for retribution echoed by the family members, who continue to struggle today, to cope with the loss of their loved one. I am also satisfied that incidents of Harm, Dangerous Harm and Death resulting from cutlass attacks are outweighed on the Court docket only by sexual offences. I remain apprehensive about the likelihood of rehabilitation of the Defendant given his age. He is 66 years old,” the judge said.

According to her, Popo had grown accustomed to his culture within his community, which way of life has alcohol and binge drinking at its centre.

“He admits to have lived that exact lifestyle from age 17. This incident for which he is before the court, took place after the deceased and the Defendant had been drinking. Both the Defense and the Crown, submit that despite the Defendant’s propensity to binge drink, which started as a young man, this is his first encounter with the law. Both submit that rehabilitation has started during his time incarcerated as he has not been exposed to alcohol, and is reputed to be a model prisoner. The Director of Public Prosecutions suggests that rehabilitation is still possible but it should be obtained within the facility and not on the outside. I have accepted this submission, drawing me to the conclusion that Retribution, General Deterrence and Rehabilitation are the principles to be prioritized,” Judge Taylor-Alexander stated.

Looking back at the incident the judge said that the attack, although alleged to have been retaliatory, was brutal, and went far beyond what was required to abate an attack.

“The daughter of the deceased was very emotional when she addressed the Court on how she came to find her father lying in a pool of his own blood. She, together with Editha Stanislas and Perle Stanislas, the deceased mother and sister, described the emotional turmoil and psychological impact the deceased’s death in this untimely circumstance has had on them. The increasing frequency of cutlass attacks are concerning. They normally result in the loss of limbs or the loss of life, as it was in this case. Often the motive for the attack seems senseless and all too often it is accompanied by binge consumption of alcohol. In this case the brutality is mitigated by that the fact it was provoked. I accept that this is a case of medium culpability. I reject the submission that it was an entirely reflex action as there was no basis for the Defendant (Popo) to have been in possession of the cutlass at the time,” Judge Taylor-Alexzander noted in court documents on the case.

Choosing a starting point sentence of 14 years, the judge said that on the application of aggravating factors Popo was excessively inebriated which impaired his judgment. But on the application of mitigating factors there was an early guilty plea, Popo was of previous good character and that his remorse was genuine. After cancelling all that out Popo was to benefit from a further deduction of two years on the starting point, and an overall 1/3 discount for the guilty plea.

Judge Taylor-Alexander then sentence Popo to seven years imprisonment at the Bordelais Correctional Facility where he is to be credited with time spent on remand. He is also to undergo drug and alcohol rehabilitation therapy and anger replacement therapy. Probation Services have been directed to make counselling services available to the family members of the deceased especially for the deceased’s daughter.

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