Breach of trust
Cop gets 19 years for raping teen despite plea for minimum sentence
KING’S COUNSEL Peter Champagnie’s pleas for the judge to not impose a sentence for more than 15 years for a police sergeant who had raped a 16-year-old girl fell on deaf ears on Friday.
The attorney argued that it would be hard for Christopher Bennett to survive in prison as a police officer.
The married 37-year-old officer, who was found guilty of rape in July following a bench trial in the Home Circuit Court, was instead given with a 19-year and three-month sentence, which is four years and three months above the statutory minimum for rape.
Bennett, who was stationed at the Denham Town Police Station in West Kingston and had served the police force for 15 years, looked utterly dejected and had to grip the bench to hold up his strength when he was asked to stand for the sentence to be officially imposed.
Charging that Bennett’s action amounted to a serious breach of trust, Justice Leighton Pusey, emphasised that a serious message must be sent to persons whose action breached the trust that is placed in them.
“Persons who are in a position of power whether they be uncle, stepfather, teacher or anybody, … we need to sentence in such a way that once there is a breach of trust the court will not look light upon any such offence lightly,” he said.
Earlier during his plea in mitigation, Champagnie had asked that the judge impose the minimum sentence on the basis that incarceration will be severely harsh for his client based on his profession and the type of offence.
He further asked the judge to bear in mind that no violence or threat of violence was used in the commission of the offence.
But the judge said that while Champagnie’s argument regarding the incarceration is valid, the breach of trust nullified his request.
“This is an offence which is both against a breach of trust personally and societally,” said the judge.
He noted that the complainant was under the care of officers who serve in the branch which Bennett heads and as a result, he had a duty of care to the complainant but abused that relationship.
Additionally, Justice Pusey said, the police officer also disregarded his duty as a policeman by his failure to serve, reassure and protect the teenager.
The judge, in calculating the sentence, explained that he was starting at 15 years, but added five years for the aggravating factor of breach of trust.
He, however, deducted six months for the officer’s good antecedent and fairly good social enquiry report.
Bennett was also credited for three months that he spent in custody.
Immediately after the sentencing, Champagnie applied for bail, noting that his client would be appealing the conviction.
However, the judge refused.
According to the lawyer, “the finding of fact did not support the offence”.
Bennett, at the time of the incident, was the head of the Denham Town Community, Safety and Security Branch and the complainant was being counselled by members of his team.
During the trial, it was outlined that on June 17, 2019, the policeman offered the complainant a ride from the station and took her to the Palisadoes main road in East Kingston, where he sexually assaulted her.
A report was later made to the police and, after a probe, Bennett was arrested and charged.