The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has upheld an appeal brought by a convicted Guyanese national, who was resident in Barbados, against his 25-year murder sentence.
The appellant, Teerath Persaud, was convicted along with Barbadian Christopher Omar McCollin of the brutal November 2008 killing of Anna Druizhinina, who was born in Russia and came to Barbados at the age of seven.
The teenager, who died from strangulation a day after celebrating her 16th birthday, was left hanging from a rafter at the Palmers Plantation, St John home of her parents, John and Larissa Jackson. Her gruesome death was seen as a “revenge killing” by Persaud, who three months earlier had been shot in the arm by John, after they got into an altercation following the disappearance of $100, 000 from John’s wholesale business So-Lo Wholesalers in Black Rock, St Michael.
The court had heard that Persaud, who was 44 years old at the time, and McCollin had broken into Druizhinina’s home with the intention to steal. However, after they encountered the teenager, McCollin proceeded to tie a wire around her neck and attached the other end to a beam. Her hands and feet were bound and she was hoisted to stand on a paint can and bucket which were placed one on top of the other. She was left precariously perched on the containers from which she eventually fell and was strangled.
Both men were subsequently indicted for murder.
However, after pleading not guilty to murder, but guilty to manslaughter, McCollin was sentenced by Justice Randall Worrell to 16 years imprisonment, less 20 months for time spent on remand.
Persaud, on the other hand, was sentenced by Justice Maureen Crane-Scott to 25 years imprisonment with a discount of four years and 26 days for time spent on remand.
An appeal was filed on the grounds that Persaud’s sentence lacked parity with that of his co-accused, who the DPP had accepted to be the primary aggressor in the commission of the offence. The appeal was also made on the basis that his sentence was excessive because of the high starting point taken by the judge and her misapplication of the aggravating and mitigating factors.
However, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal which was later filed with the CCJ, the island’s highest court.
In its ruling today, the Trinidad-based court said that after assessment of the use of the parity principle in various jurisdictions outside of the Caribbean, it concluded that the concept of parity in sentencing had evolved into an important principle in the law of sentencing.
Therefore, the principle of equality before the law required that co-accused persons whose personal circumstances were similar and whose legal liability for the offence were relative should receive comparable sentences.
“Where the sentences are unjustifiably disparate, the accused who has been dealt with more harshly may entertain a legitimate sense of grievance at that unfair treatment,” the CCJ said.
The court also deemed it harmful to the public confidence in the administration of justice where significant disparity in sentences could not be properly justified.
It therefore said that where co-accused persons were sentenced separately, the second sentencing judge must have regard to the sentence passed by the first.
“The second judge, whilst obliged to pass the sentence which in his or her view is proper in all the circumstances must also have regard to the fact that the sentence passed by the first judge is an established and relevant fact to which appropriate weight must be given. This was consistent with Section 37(3)(a) and 39 of the Penal System Reform Act,” the CCJ said in setting aside the sentence of 25 years imprisonment imposed on Persaud, who is now due to serve 13 years and 339 days from the original date of sentence on December 11, 2012.