Legal Scoop | 15 years for raping a prostitute? - The case of Paul Haughton v R
Another interesting judgment coming out of the Court of Appeal very recently (September 2019) has been the case of Paul Haughton v R. The appeal primarily turned on whether, having regard to the circumstances of the particular case, it was manifestly excessive and unjust to sentence Mr Haughton to the prescribed minimum penalty of 15 years for a rape conviction. Today’s column focuses only on the primary point of appeal.
In summary, the evidence of the complainant, a prostitute, in the court below, was that she met Mr Haughton at a nightclub in Coral Gardens and they had negotiated and arrived at a price of $5,000.00 for her services. Mr Haughton had paid her $1,000.00 on the spot and they were supposed to have gone to his house to consummate the deal. They left the club in a taxi, supposedly for his home in Barrett Town. However, en route there, the taxi driver left them at a desolate spot, on Mr Haughton’s instructions, and sped off. Mr Haughton then proceeded to rough up the complainant. He took a stone and hit her several times in the face, tore off her clothes and kicked away her legs. Fearful of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, she had pleaded with him to use a condom and to not ejaculate in her, but he proceeded to do just that anyway. Afterwards, he took away her purse with her mobile phone. On Mr Haughton’s account, the sex was consensual and he had used a condom. They had agreed on $2,000 for her services; however, after the deal had been consummated, the complainant had demanded $2,000 more.
At the end of the trial, Mr Haughton was convicted by the jury for the offences of rape, robbery with violence (for the theft of the purse) and unlawful wounding (for beating her up).
15-year sentence too long?
The jury having found Mr Haughton guilty, the trial judge, Justice Daye, had then sentenced him to concurrent terms of imprisonment of 15 years for the rape charge, three years for the robbery with violence charge and three years for the unlawful wounding charge. The rape sentence, therefore, was the overwhelmingly longest sentence. Justice Daye, however, felt the conduct of the appellant did not rise so high as to warrant imposition of the prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment. According to the judge:
“There is no excuse to have sexual intercourse without her consent, but there are circumstances which caused a man in your position to misjudge and go beyond her request to have sexual intercourse, but not without the use of a condom, in her case. So these are all factors, and so when I look at those factors I am of the view that your age and your background and that you are not a man, they said in your community, of violence and this thing didn’t take place with any great violence …
“In my view, I don’t believe that you deserve the minimum of 15 years, when I look at all these circumstances … .”
Justice Daye, therefore, then went on to issue the necessary certificate which would allow Mr Haughton to challenge the 15-year sentence to the Court of Appeal, resulting in the appeal, the subject of today’s column.
Some of the circumstances which Justice Daye appeared to have considered highly in concluding that the 15-year minimum sentence was too much, in this case, were:
- there was an agreement for sexual intercourse, although there was difference about the fee charged;
- the offence had not taken place with a weapon, no knife, cutlass or gun;
- Mr Haughton had a drinking problem and, therefore, may have misjudged the situation;
- the complainant’s real concern had to do with the fact that, despite her entreaties, the appellant did not use a condom and ejaculated inside of her.
Misjudging the situation
Having looked at Justice Daye’s sentencing remarks in detail, the Court of Appeal, in a judgment delivered by the president, Justice Dennis Morrison, formed the view that apart from the issue of the accused man being unharmed at the time of the incident – which was a relevant consideration – many of the other factors that the trial judge relied on in concluding that a 15-year sentence was not appropriate related to matters which, “by their verdict, the jury had already resolved against Mr Haughton”.
An example of one such matter, according to President Morrison, was the reliance the trial judge placed on Mr Haughton “misjudging” the situation, when in fact the jury’s verdict indicated that it had accepted the prosecution’s case that, as Mr Haughton well knew, the complainant had not consented to sexual intercourse with him in the circumstances described by her.
In the Court of Appeal’s view, therefore, Justice Daye fell into error by approaching the sentencing of Mr Haughton “on the basis of the very hypothesis which the jury had plainly rejected”.
The Court of Appeal then went on to consider whether the prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment was manifestly excessive and unjust in Mr Haughton’s case. To this end, the Court of Appeal looked at the case of Oneil Murray v R where the accused man was sentenced to 19 years for raping a woman. The court accepted that it operated in Mr Haughton’s favour that no firearm or other weapon was used by him, unlike in the Murray case. However, according to President Morrison:
“ in a case in which the appellant clearly used personal violence to subdue the complainant the lack of a firearm or other weapon was insufficient to reduce the sentence below the prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment, or, put another way, it cannot be said that, in all the circumstances of this case, there are compelling reasons which render the prescribed minimum sentence manifestly excessive and unjust.”
President Morrison then recited the prosecution’s evidence which the jury had accepted and concluded:
“…there can be no doubt that, on any view of these facts, whatever the nature of any ‘contractual consent’ previously given by the complainant, this was, as the jury obviously found, a case of rape plain and simple”.
Mr Haughton’s application for leave to appeal against conviction was therefore dismissed.
1. Rape is rape regardless of who the complainant is.
2. The bar to have a minimum sentence for rape reduced is very high, and will not be easily dislodged.
Mr Haughton was represented by Trevor Ho-Lyn with Miss Cadeen Barnett and Malike Kellier appearing for the Crown. Other than the president, the other members of the Court of Appeal who heard the case were: The Hon Miss Justice Straw and The Jon Mr justice Fraser (ag).