As the debate continues over the sentence imposed on a father convicted of raping his 11-year-old daughter, Leon Chaku Symister is shedding light on the sentencing process.
The man, who was 40 years old when he committed the act, was sentenced, last week, to three concurrent 18-year terms for unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.
This offence, like incest, carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. However, the man pleaded guilty at the first occasion and therefore was entitled to an automatic one-third discount for not wasting the court’s time.
Based on sentencing guidelines, a person convicted – for any offence – is also entitled to further discounts (of one-third) if he has no prior convictions. Previous good conduct also plays a role in how a judge would impose a sentence.
The court is duty bound to consider these factors.
Symister, an attorney in practice for more than 30 years, confirms that the judge followed the sentencing guidelines set out by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC).
If the man had opted for a trial and was found guilty, the sentence he received would have been much higher, Symister notes.
He acknowledges that concerns have been expressed about sentencing in Antigua and Barbuda, and he says he does not disagree that this case required a harsh sentence.
However, the attorney says that a sentence must have two important objectives: to deter a defendant (specific deterrence) and general deterrence.
Meanwhile, many residents feel that the man’s ex-girlfriend should have reported the matter to the Police after finding out that the crime was taking place. Instead, she is reported to have left the home.
The matter came to light only after a public argument between the couple. The matter was overheard and reported to the child’s mother.