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Appeal Court upholds rape sentence

By \\\\\ Rickie Ramdass rickie.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

THE Appeal Court yesterday affirmed the 12-year jail term imposed on a Claxton Bay man by a High Court judge last year after he was found guilty on two counts of rape against his nine-year-old sister in 2005.

In dismissing the appeal against conviction and sentence, the court said it was in disagreement with the argument put forward by defence attorneys on all three grounds of appeal filed.

The 29-year-old man, whose name cannot be revealed to protect the identity of the victim, was convicted of raping the girl in July and October 2005, at their home. 

The State’s case was that on the day the first offence was committed, the girl, who lived with her two brothers, was at home when the man called her into the house before having her remove her clothes and having sexual intercourse with her. He then ordered her not to inform anyone of the incident.

On the second occasion, the State said, the man again ordered the girl to undress when she began to cry and attempted to run off but the man held on to her, put her on the bed and again sexually assaulted her, the State said.

It was not until May 2006 that the girl made complaints to the principal at her school before police were called in and a medical examination was carried out at the La Romaine Health Centre.

The doctor found that her hymen was absent but that it was not a recent rupture. Her brother was eventually arrested and charged.

In his defence during the trial, the man denied the allegations explaining that in July and August, 2005, he worked from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. six to seven days a week and as such, he was not at home at the time the offence was said to have taken place.

He further testified that in October 2005, he usually finished work around 8 or 9 p.m.

However, the State called one of his cousins to testify.  The cousin was responsible for preparing payroll and pay out wages where the man worked, and she testified that employees were never required to work seven days a week. She also testified the latest time for the man on any timesheet was 6 p.m.

She further testified that whenever she went to visit another cousin, who shared a yard with the man, she noticed that the appellant would usually be home earlier than his other brother. 

At the appeal , defence attorneys argued that trial judge Justice Mark Mohammed (now an Appeal Court judge) erred in law when in summing up the case to the jury he “repeatedly used the term ‘in the experience of the Courts’ thereby rendering it impossible for the jury to do otherwise than accept such evidence”.

They further argued the judge made mention of highly prejudicial and irrelevant evidence to the jury, including the girl “was disturbed, crying out at night, bawling and there were many sleepless nights” and that she had attempted to commit suicide.

Although the Court said it agreed the evidence should have been excluded by the judge, it did not find the evidence resulted in such prejudice against the man so as to result in a miscarriage of justice rendering the conviction unsafe.

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