Jamaican father convicted for incest with 2 teenage daughters freed

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A Jamaican father who was in 2017 convicted for incest and sexually assaulting his two teenage daughters was earlier this month acquitted by the Court of Appeal.

The man, who was found guilty on an indictment charging him with seven counts of grievous sexual assault and two counts of incest, was sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment at hard labour on all counts of grievous sexual assault, with the stipulation that he serve 12 years before being eligible for parole.

He was also sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment at hard labour for each of the offences of incest, with the stipulation that he serves 12 years before being eligible for parole.

The sentences of 18 years were ordered to run concurrently to each other and concurrently with the sentences of 20 years, which were also ordered to run concurrently with each other.

Prosecutors during the trial relied on the testimonies of the two daughters who were 18 and 14 years old at the time of the court case.

The 18-year-old testified that the first incident between herself and her father occurred between 2005 and 2006.

She further alleged that other encounters took place between 2014 and 2015.

The father ,in giving sworn evidence during the trial, denied committing the offences. Defence attorneys argued that the evidence of both girls “were concocted”, with their father asserting that they “each had a motive to lie”.

In the case of his older daughter, the father said her motive “was borne out of his attempts to discipline her and to curb her immoral lifestyle”.

As for the younger daughter, the father said her reason for making the allegations was that “she was copying her elder sister, as she had done in the past” and was prone to do.

In appealing his sentence and conviction the father argued, among other things; that the trial was a nullity as the indictment was unsigned; that the verdict was improper and a nullity; the trial judge erred in directing the jury as to how the delay in the reporting of the charges could have adversely affected the defence; and that he was denied a fair trial and given a sentence that was manifestly excessive.

He further argued that his conviction on the first count of the indictment (grievous sexual assault) was a nullity as that offence during the time it was allegedly committed (between 2005 and 2006) was unknown in this jurisdiction since the Sexual Offences Act which created it was promulgated in 2009.

The Crown conceded on this ground.

The judges who ruled on December 6 this year, quashing the conviction and the sentence and acquitting the father, in delivering their reasons on December 20 said the learned trial judge did not take the extra step of warning the jury that it should not use the evidence in support of the counts relating to one complainant to support a finding of guilt in relation to the allegations by the other complainant, or vice versa.

“In the context of the similarity in the allegations of both complainants, such a warning was essential. Furthermore, the failure to give such a warning was compounded by the directions of the learned trial judge [in] her summation where she treated the complainants’ evidence together…in these circumstances we find that the summation in respect of this issue was not as fair to the applicant as it should have been and resulted in a miscarriage of justice,” the judges of the appeal said.

Meanwhile, on the question of whether there should be a retrial, the judges of appeal — while acknowledging that “the offences are, without question, quite serious and the offence of grievous sexual assault in particular is prevalent in the society”, making it a factor which weighs in favour of a retrial — having considered several factors such as the lapse in time and possibility that there could be further trauma to the daughters, “a retrial would not have been appropriate”.

SOURCE: Jamaica Observer

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