Sun | Aug 18, 2019

Child molester’s sentence slashed

Published:Wednesday | July 17, 2019 | 12:25 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Staff Reporter

The nation’s second-highest court has slashed nearly 30 years off the 45-year prison sentence imposed on a St Catherine man who admitted to raping a 13-year-old girl he abducted while she was on her way to school.

Carl Campbell, 46, will now have to serve 16 years in prison for rape arising from the 2014 incident and will be eligible for parole in 10 years, the Court of Appeal ordered in a decision handed down last month.

The ruling comes amid widespread public outcry over a recent spate of deadly sexual attacks on young girls, including the brutal slaying of eight-year-old Shantae Skyers in the St Andrew community of Sterling Castle Heights in April.

Campbell, who had two previous convictions at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty to rape, grievous sexual assault, forcible abduction, robbery with aggravation, and assault in the St Catherine Circuit Court on March 9, 2015.

According to prosecutors, the 13-year-old girl was on her way to school shortly after 7 o’clock on the morning of February 5, 2014, when Campbell “emerged from bushes armed with a machete” along the Rio Magna Road in St Catherine.

He held on to the child, pulled her into the bushes and later instructed her to sit on a makeshift bed.

When she refused, Campbell swung the machete at her.

Prosecutors say it was at this point that the child complied with Campbell’s order and was raped. He then robbed her of $500 before telling her that she was being allowed to leave because he “could not take her life”.

Campbell was sentenced on March 27, 2015, to 45 years in prison for rape and ordered to serve 35 years before being eligible for parole.

He was also sentenced to 12 years at hard labour each for the offences of grievous sexual assault and forcible abduction; 10 years at hard labour for robbery with aggravation; and six months at hard labour for assault. The sentences were to run concurrently.

Campbell admitted, during his sentencing hearing, that he had two prior convictions arising from separate incidents, one of which involved the use of a firearm. The other conviction involved two incidents of indecent assault.

A social enquiry report also revealed that residents in his community viewed him as “a deceiver who would commit heinous acts when he thought no one was looking”.

“It also disclosed that he had been chased from the community by its members because of his behaviour,” court documents revealed.

But Campbell, through his attorney, went to the Court of Appeal to challenge the 45-year sentence imposed for the rape conviction.

The attorney acknowledged that the case involved “serious aggravating factors”, but contended that “they were not sufficient to take the case so far outside the usual range of sentences” for the offence of rape.

Citing the sentencing guidelines established for judges, the attorney argued that the usual starting point for the offence of rape is 15 years and suggested that the presiding judge was “misguided” in her approach.

The Court of Appeal, in its ruling, acknowledged the judge’s thorough assessment of the aggravating and mitigating factors in the case, but rapped her for failing to identify an appropriate range within which the sentence should have fallen.

“Having failed so to do, it stands to reason that the learned trial judge also erred in principle, as she failed to identify a starting point to be utilised within that range,” the appeal court said.

“In arriving at an appropriate term of imprisonment, the learned trial judge ought to have demonstrated her regard for the established principles of sentencing and in particular those that treat with the offence of rape, particularly after an accused may have entered a plea of guilty.”

The nation’s second highest court said after considering the aggravating and mitigating factors, it formed the view that an appropriate sentence that would have been imposed on Campbell if he had gone to trial would have been 25 years.

However, it said his guilty plea must be given consideration “for reducing a sentence that would have otherwise been imposed at trial”.

“The learned trial judge correctly identified that credit ought to have been given to the appellant for this. She, however, failed to identify the degree of the reduction that would have been given by her,” the court said.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com