Court officers, from a judge to lawyers for the prosecution and defence, have expressed concern that some young offenders are leaving prison without having been rehabilitated or acquiring skills, with one suggesting a parole board to rectify the deficiencies.
Justice Randall Worrell, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Alliston Seale and defence attorney Safiya Moore were united in their concern for the future of Raffique Vincent Murray was on Monday given a starting ten-year sentence for the manslaughter of David Harewood on October 3, 2016.
Murray spent most of his prison time on remand and as an accused person did not have access to rehabilitation programmes.
Justice Worrell handed down the sentence during a virtual sitting of his No. 2 Supreme Court.
In May last year, Murray pleaded not guilty to murdering Harewood but admitted to the lesser count of manslaughter.
On his arrest in 2016, the then 16-year-old, from Sinckler Road, Haggatt Hall, St Michael told police he killed 39-year-old Harewood because “I did not like how he was talking to me and touching me”.
Harewood’s lifeless body was discovered lying in a pool of blood along the road at the junction of George Street and Belmont Road, St Michael on October 3, 2016.
In his sentencing decision, the High Court judge cited the Court of Appeal’s ruling in Elliston Greaves vs The Queen which set down new guidelines on sentencing in manslaughter cases. He agreed with the Crown represented by Deputy Director of Public Prosecution Seale and Defence Counsel Moore that the Murray fell in category four of the Greaves ruling.
Category four sets down a starting sentence of five to ten years for the offences of manslaughter where there are strong mitigating circumstances such as an absence of premeditation, absence of a firearm or other offensive weapon or the presence of serious provocative words or other actions.
The judge said that the higher court had already taken into consideration the mitigating features in connection with the crime in its decision to reach at the starting point.
He then focused on the mitigating factors in Murray’s case: he went to prison at an “exceedingly” young age; had a prior clean record, fully cooperated with police. Those features he said had to be considered by the court including Murray’s socioeconomic conditions at the time “even if that was not an excuse”.
Looking at the young convict’s case “holistically”, Justice Worrell adjusted the ten-year starting sentence down by two years.
From that he was credited with a one-third discount for his guilty plea and the 1,808 days he had already spent on remand at Dodds.
This left the now 21-year-old manslayer with 139 days to serve at the St Philip penal institution.
Justice Worrell, then speaking on the issue of rehabilitation, pointed out that the young offender had not benefited from any rehabilitation while on remand and asked “what will happen to Raffique Murray after his release?”
Murray had been on remand since 2016 and based on his presentencing report, according to the officials, he did not complete his secondary education.
Justice Worrell said: “But somebody on remand for over five years should have the benefit of something in the prison . . . if you are supposed to come back out reformed and stuff like that, the time that you have spent in there . . . that they put you to do things whether you are on remand or not.
“It is a ticklish and delicate area because you will have some people that will be let out without having any rehabilitation or [doing] any programmes at all.”
Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Seale agreed that this was a sensitive issue as some would argue that an accused person on remand should not be forced to undergo any programmes as he or she had not been convicted of any crime.
But he suggested that one way to deal with the issue was by consent.
Seale said: “If you come into prison and you are remanded and we look at your situation and recognize that you are lacking in the basic skills then with your consent, because you can still learn a trade . . . you can still go into the education sector and at least learn some of the fundamentals of the English language and Mathematics . . . so all this time is not wasted, because we are bringing back out somebody after five years with less skill and older, it can only be worse for that person.”
Moore, Murray’s lawyer said: “This is one of the matters where we should have a parole board in place, because that could have impacted this. So even though the court gives a sentence there is a period of time after he is released we are ensuring that he is continuing his education, he is continuing classes and anger management.”