Sex offender who assaulted 10-y-o loses bid to cut sentence
Sixty-six-year-old Kenneth Morris, who was convicted in 2017 for molesting a 10-year-old girl and sentenced to 14 years in prison, has lost his bid to have at least five years shaved off his sentence.
The Court of Appeal, however, while dismissing the appeal and affirming the sentence, declared that his constitutional right to a fair trial within a reasonable time had been breached because of the State’s delay for nearly five years in producing his transcript.
Justices Patrick Brooks, Evan Brown, and Kissock Laing ruled that the “length of time was untenable”.
The judges agreed with Morris’ lawyer, Kemoy McEkron, that the appellant had been in a state of uncertainty for nearly five years on account of the unavailability of the transcripts.
The St Catherine senior citizen was convicted in the St Catherine Circuit Court and sentenced to two years and four months for sexual touching of a child and 14 years for grievous sexual assault, with the possibility of being paroled after serving 10 years.
Morris had appealed his sentence and conviction on several grounds, including that his constitutional rights to a fair trial and due process were breached because of the delay in producing the transcript.
The other grounds advanced were that the learned trial judge had erred when she failed to adequately assist the jury regarding the legal element required to prove the offence of grievous sexual assault to wit penetration.
It was also ruled that the judge had also erred in failing to leave the alternative verdict of the lesser offence of indecent assault to the jury based on the ambiguity of the complainant’s evidence.
The trial judge was also believed to have erred by failing to give a proper good-character direction to assist the jury.
But the appellate judges found that all the grounds, except the constitutional breach, were without merit.
McEkron, while arguing that the nearly five-year delay was too long, had submitted that if the court upheld the conviction in respect to the constitutional breach, the appropriate redress would be for the sentence to be reduced.
According to the lawyer, a reduction of five years would have been an appropriate remedy.
But Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Andrea Martin-Swaby, while conceding that the delay would have constituted a breach, disagreed with the sentence- reduction remedy. Furthermore, she noted that Morris was given a sentence that was less than the mandatory minimum and is still serving that term.
The Court of Appeal judges, in the meantime, found that a public acknowledgement of the constitutional breach was sufficient as the conviction appeal had no merit.
The judges’ ruling was based on guidance from a previous Privy Council ruling on a similar issue.
In that case, it was stated: “If the breach of the reasonable time requirement is established retrospectively, after there has been a hearing, the appropriate remedy may be a public acknowledgement of the breach, a reduction in the penalty imposed on a convicted defendant, or the payment of compensation to an acquitted defendant.”
In 2017, the Crown had led evidence that the appellant molested the child at the back of his house while her friend was at the front of the premises. The incident happened in January 2013.
The child later reported the matter and Morris was arrested and charged.
However, Morris had denied the allegations, saying that malice was the reason for the claim.
Morris had alleged that he and the child’s mother had a disagreement after they entered into a partner scheme and she failed to pay him $3,000 that was owed to him. He had also claimed that the child’s family wanted his home.