Slap on wrist for child killer - 25-year sentence cut to nine for man who beat one-year-old to death
Jamaica's second-highest court has slashed by more than half the 25-year prison sentence that was imposed on a St Mary man who used a piece of stick to beat his infant grandniece to death. This occurred 16 months after he was released from prison for killing a female companion.
Instead, 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.
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.
Barrett pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2015 for the vicious beating. According to a postmortem 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," the report indicated.
Justice Marcia Dunbar-Green, who imposed the 25-year prison sentence in the St Mary Circuit Court in 2015, pointed to the "savage" attack on the 22-month-old child and the fact that Barrett committed the crime while he was on parole.
According to court documents obtained by The Gleaner, Barrett was initially sentenced to death in 1992 for killing his female companion during a domestic dispute a year earlier. However, the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in May 1994 and Barrett was released on parole in June 2012 after serving 20 years behind bars.
Dunbar-Green, in explaining her decision, noted that the normal sentence range for manslaughter is three to 15 years. However, she indicated that the "savage, monstrous and unspeakable attack on a helpless child" meant the aggravating circumstances of the case "took it outside the realm of what could be considered an average case of manslaughter".
As a result, she considered 25 years an "appropriate" starting point.
But Barrett, through his attorney Lloyd McFarlane, challenged the sentence on the grounds that it was "manifestly excessive".
McFarlane argued, among other things, that Dunbar-Green was misguided in her approach to sentencing in several areas. He noted that although Barrett pleaded guilty to manslaughter, the judge treated the case as one of murder.
Further, the attorney took issue with the judge's decision to use 25 years as a starting point for Barrett's sentence, even though she acknowledged that the usual range is between three and 15 years.
The Court of Appeal, in its decision handed down earlier this month, sided with Barrett, indicating that a reasonable starting point, in light of the serious nature of the offence, should have been 12 years.
However, the court said that because of Barrett's murder conviction and the fact that Eshauna's death occurred while he was on parole, "we consider 15 years an appropriate sentence".
The appeal court then subtracted three years, or a 20 per cent discount that was promised by Dunbar-Green, and the two years and eight months that Barrett spent in custody awaiting trial.