Thu | Nov 21, 2019

Cops get 14 years for Kirkland’s death

Published:Tuesday | May 28, 2019 | 12:23 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer

Hope among defence attorneys for a non-custodial sentence for the three cops found guilty of manslaughter in relation to the 2012 death of Immaculate Conception High School student Vanessa Kirkland was shattered yesterday as presiding judge Justice Carol Lawrence-Beswick said that the imposition of only a fine would be inappropriate.

The judge made the declaration before handing down a 14-and-a-half-year prison sentence against constables Ardewain Smith, 35; Durvin Hayles, 33; and Anna-Kay Bailey, 27, at the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston.

Her judgment was immediately met with screams and wails as relatives and friends of the offenders reacted to the sentence. At least one person was seen running from the packed courtroom to relate the news to others standing outside, who were not yet aware of what had taken place.

Senior members of Jamaica Constabulary Force and its soon-to-be-disbanded Mobile Reserve, where the now ex-cops were stationed, also shed tears inside the courtroom.

BAIL APPLICATION

Last week, defence attorneys made an application to the court to impose a fine on their clients or, in the alternative, to give them a sentence below the usual starting point of five years and to consider and grant bail pending an appeal.

Prosecutor Kathy-Ann Pyke opposed the bail application, saying it was “inappropriate, improper and premature”.

The prosecutor also said that bail could only be considered under specific circumstances, none of which were met.

“Where we are is that I cannot make further submission to you because the situation has not arisen for you to consider bail,” Pyke said.

Seemingly agreeing with Pyke, Justice Lawrence-Beswick rejected that application, citing that she did not have jurisdiction to grant bail in the matter.

PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY

The judge noted mitigating factors such as each offender displaying the ability to contribute positively to society given his level of education and employment history and time already spent behind bars.

However, the nature of the firearm discharge and impact on the victim’s family were aggravating factors.

Kirkland’s father is said to have suffered a stroke after hearing of her death, dying one month later.

Justice Lawrence-Beswick, while acknowledging the stressful nature of the police’s job, said that it is their duty to exercise care to preserve life at all times.

During the five-week trial, which started in January, the prosecution suggested that on March 20, 2012, constables Smith, Hayles and Bailey drove on to Norman Lane some time after 9 o’clock and opened fire on a blue Suzuki Swift motor car parked along the left side of the road.

Sixteen-year-old Kirkland, who was in the vehicle with six other occupants, was fatally shot.

However, throughout the trial, defence attorneys asserted that the cops acted in self-defence, having been fired upon by armed men who alighted from the vehicle.

The trio were found guilty on February 8 of the lesser offence of manslaughter by a seven-member jury.

nickoy.wilson@gleanerjm.com