Mark Wignall | Criminals and their sweet sentencing
On a sweltering hot weekday, some time in 2011, the taxi driver pulled up beside the preteen on her way from school and offered her a lift home. The child had no reason not to trust him as years before he had an intimate relationship with her older sister. That relationship was hardly on her mind as she entered the vehicle. As far as she was concerned, she was getting a free ride home from someone she knew and trusted.
Unknown to the girl, the taxi driver had other things on his mind; dark, unspeakable things. On his way up to the semi-rural area of Sterling Castle, St Andrew, he diverted and took the child to a lonely stretch of road that led to a desolate area. Against her protestations he pulled her out of the car, hauled her towards the bushes and, out of sight of any witnesses, brutally raped the child.
After he was done, it probably dawned on him that he was at the point of no return. Using either a huge stone or a log, he cruelly bashed her on the head, and when he was convinced that she was dead, he dug a makeshift grave and buried the body.
Later that evening all hell broke loose. She had not arrived home and her phone rang without an answer. The taxi driver even had the temerity to accompany the child's parents to the Red Hills Police Station to make an official report of a missing child as her parents and her older sister were in panic mode.
Unknown to all of them, at the site of the grave a miracle was taking place. The child was not dead as the taxi driver had thought. Out of the grave she arose, digging herself to a new freedom and a 'second' shot at life. Ragged, torn, half-naked, scared and totally confused, she made her way to a section of a main road where she was picked up by a passing car.
As she told her story later, the terrible truth came out. The taxi driver was eventually picked up and I have no reason to confirm that he was treated with kid gloves by the authorities. He had no defence at his trial and, to the surprise of many, was sentenced to a paltry 12 years in prison.
Had the child been killed, it would have been at least murder and sexual assault as the obvious charges to be brought against him. But, of course, only if the police had been able to unearth her body.
That the child found something of superhuman strength to make her way out of the grave and show up alive actually provided the 'murderer' and rapist his reprieve. At the sentencing the law was again proven to be an ass.
A multiple killer will walk the streets again
Last Wednesday, The Gleaner carried a story, 'Slap on wrist for child killer - 25-year sentence cut to nine for man who beat one-year old to death.'
Sixteen months before, Clive Barrett had been released from prison (on parole) for killing a female companion. The slap on the wrist came after he and his lawyer went to the Court of Appeal. According to The Gleaner report, " ... the Court of Appeal has ordered that Clive Barrett, 54, should serve a sentence of nine years and four months for beating 22-month-old Eshauna Gardener to death because she disobeyed him and got burnt by a coal fire he left unattended at his home in Dean's Pen, St Mary, on October 30, 2013."
That sentencing must have pleased Barrett as, according to the report: "The court ordered, too, that July 21, 2016, should be regarded as the day he started serving the reduced sentence, meaning he could be released in four years."
As for the details surrounding the death of the child, "According to a post-mortem report that was used as evidence in the case, Eshauna had multiple 'imprint abrasions' to her chest, upper abdomen, back and scalp. The cause of death was listed as shock and haemorrhage, traumatic cerebral haemorrhage, and blunt force head injury."
Each person in this country is entitled to that nebulous word, justice. In the real world, one man's justice is another man's pain. Barrett had beaten the child to death while he was on parole, and no matter how the legal details are sliced and diced, he is going to be released in four years. Some 'justice' for a man who kills a woman and beats a toddler to death.
It is said that during a trial if the facts go against you, grab for the technicalities of the law. If those technicalities go against you, grab for the facts.
Essentially, the beating death of the child was not considered as murder as it was on the initial trial. It was instead reduced to manslaughter, an old word that in the modern age has to have more practical application when faced with a grown adult beating a toddler to death.
Mr Forrest, you found the exit just in time
The Gleaner also carried another most interesting piece detailing what was obviously overreach by another powerful public servant.
According to the Wednesday Gleaner, "Chairman of the Spectrum Management Authority (SMA), Trevor Forrest, ignored the advice of the permanent secretary in the parent ministry against the late addition of Carolyn Warren to a shortlist of persons to be interviewed for a management position after the application process had closed in 2016.
"It came to light that Forrest not only bucked the advice of Dr David McBean, then managing director of the entity, but that he also pooh-poohed the intervention of Hilary Alexander, permanent secretary in the then Ministry of Science, Technology and Energy."
In providing professional advice to Forrest, the chairman of the SMA, The Gleaner article stated, "In September 2016, Alexander advised Forrest accordingly: 'From my certain experience, I have to say that your request is not only outside of the regulations/standard practise, but could potentially open the minister/ministry to serious questions regarding its recruitment practises. It consequently would not be in the interest of the entity or, by extension, the ministry to proceed on this basis'."
CHANGE IN POLITICAL ADMINISTRATIONS
First point that jumps out at me is that Mrs Warren seems to have had multiple parachutes attached to her, just in case her first landing did not come off perfectly. Second is that many of these bumptious chairmen of these public bodies either don't know the limitations of their authority, or they simply believe that a change in political administration empowers them to place their political friends ahead of the line while openly bucking standard governance procedures.
It doesn't matter if Mrs Warren is a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) supporter, as I happen to know she is. I do not know Mr Forrest or his political persuasions, but the very fact that I have to be putting this forward is troubling. And, for the record, I voted for the JLP in February 2016, and while my support still stands, I must say that now, it is only lukewarm.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness knows the raw politics in politics. He would have known that while he cannot be everywhere at once in every entity in every ministry, there has to be some sort of guarantee that his Cabinet members would haul in the type of runaway board chairmen who believe they are village dictators.
Mr Forrest has made the right move. He sits on other boards, too. Will that impact his professional viability on those other boards? For those other chairpersons who are looking on, the way forward is obvious.
You are all servants of the people. You were not appointed to serve out special favours.