A St George man was remanded to St Ann’s Fort after appearing in court today on a charge of raping his 15-year-old stepdaughter. The prosecution alleges that the girl was left with severe anal damage.
Chief Magistrate Ian Weekes denied the accused his freedom even after the earnest mitigation of his defense attorney who reminded the court of the law’s presumption of innocence.
The 42-year-old man is alleged to have had sexual intercourse with the girl without her consent, knowing she did not consent or was reckless to whether she consented between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2020.
Prosecutor Victoria Taitt objected to bail on a number of grounds including the child’s tender age. However, she stressed particularly on the nature of the incident, informing the court that the girl was raped vaginally, anally and orally with severe damage to her anus.
“The accused man was in a position of trust and was considered by the victim to be her stepfather,” Taitt submitted.
She further told the court that the girl needed to be protected from the accused and that same protection needed to be extended to society.
The prosecutor also informed the court that there was another minor at the residence.
“It is the prosecution’s fear that if the accused man is granted bail, he may in some way try to intimidate the victim in this matter,” Taitt added.
Though the accused has no prior convictions; Taitt said that there were allegations of ten sexual assaults committed between the given dates. It was based on this that the prosecution said the accused had a propensity to recommit.
Asante Brathwaite, counsel for the accused, said the prosecution “crossed the rubicon” because the case was at a stage of “mere allegations”.
“I must remind [the prosecution] that the constitutional presumption is innocent until proven guilty,” she charged.
Addressing the Bail Act and a well-known guideline case, Brathwaite submitted that though the allegation was indeed serious, that alone could not deny the possibility of bail. She again drew the court’s attention to the fact that her client was not known to the courts.
“There’s nothing before the court, besides mere speculation of my learned friend, to show that my client would interfere with the complainant because I know things can be put in place with respect to Section 13 of the Bail Act that he, my client, would be able to stay away from the complainant,” the lawyer said.
Brathwaite told the court that there was an alternative residence where the accused would be staying. She said the prosecution was speculating “a bit too far” by saying that her client had a propensity to recommit.
The magistrate interjected at this point to say that the prosecution made such a submission because of the allegations of numerous assaults.
The lawyer continued to mitigate on her client’s behalf, stating that he was an employee of 12 years and was enrolled in a programme at the University of the West Indies. She said the accused would not be idle but had a lot of commitments.
“In my estimation he does not pose a potential danger to society. I don’t see the evidence anywhere. Yes there are allegations before the court but…there’s no substantial thing to show the court ‘hey this man as soon as he goes through the door or a couple days after, he may commit another offence or a similar offence’,” she stated.
“He also has the obligation as a father financially…to pull those finances in these times would be perilous,” she added.
Brathwaite also spoke of the current COVID-19 “environment” and asked the court to pay attention to that fact.
In response, the Chief Magistrate said “The environment relates to COVID and yes the court has to take that into consideration but arrangements have been made so that they will be no mixing of persons from this side to be headed to the easterly direction and the state of play is such that the prosecution will not usually object to most matters at this time because of the state of play,” he explained.
The magistrate said he was surprised by the objection but after hearing the reason he believed the prosecution had concerns given the timelines of the allegations.
“It’s a long period of time given the proximity of the accused to the child, given the fact that they are alleging that he would play the role of stepfather and the number of times that they are alleging,” he said.
Brathwaite again suggested that the court can put stringent conditions in place to protect the complainant with respect to “interference or interaction”.
She said other similar cases resulted in bail and there was nothing “strange” about her client’s case.
“What is the prosecution saying? Because there is nothing before the court to say that this matter will be called next year or next two. So what are we saying? Lock him up for a lil bit till the prosecution feels sure that he may not be a danger to society. How much lock-up must we lock him up?” Brathwaite argued.
“I have some real concerns at this point in time. I can’t say that those concerns can necessarily be remedied in the kind of conditions which you refer. I know that under the Bail Act a number of things can be done. At this point in time I am really not going to exercise my discretion in his favor,” the Chief Magistrate concluded.
The accused will appear at Boarded Hall court on February 12.