A Barbadian man who killed the mother of his six children will spend less time behind bars than a High Court judge here ordered after the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) reduced his sentence from 16 to 12 years.
The CCJ delivered the judgement on Thursday in the appeal filed by Elliston McDonald Greaves, saying that the sentencing judge, Madam Justice Michelle Weekes, should not have increased his starting sentence to 16 years.
In addition to reducing the sentence to 12 years, the island’s final appellate court said the 928 days Greaves spent on remand must be deducted.
The decision is expected to guide the sentencing of another Barbadian convicted for manslaughter, Ryan Omar Samuel. Last December, Justice Randall Worrell said he would await the outcome of Greaves’ CCJ appeal since it could have ramifications for Samuel’s sentencing.
Greaves, of Crab Hill, St Lucy, had been charged with the murder of 35-year-old Cally-Ann Gill, with whom he had a 13-year intimate relationship, on December 23, 2015. He admitted that he killed her after walking in on her with another man at Niles Road, Farm Road, St Peter. The convicted killer had said that he threatened the man who subsequently left, and after a scuffle with Gill he stabbed her in the throat with a knife.
On July 3, 2017, he pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, on the grounds of provocation, and the plea was accepted by the State. A year later, in sentencing Greaves, Justice Weekes increased the starting sentence to 16 years, based on his previous criminal record, and deducted from that the 928 days he had spent on remand. That reduced his time behind bars to 13 years and 168 days.
Greaves appealed his sentence at the Barbados Court of Appeal. Although his appeal failed, the Court of Appeal revised the guidelines for sentencing for manslaughter as set out in the case R v Pierre Lorde (the Pierre Lorde Guidelines) to take into consideration modern methodologies and approaches for sentencing set out in later decisions of the CCJ.
However, Greaves appealed to the CCJ arguing, among other things, that his sentence was contrary to the Penal System Reform Act, that his previous convictions were not personal aggravating factors warranting the increase of the starting sentence by four years, and that the sentence of 16 years was excessive, having regard to the Pierre Lorde Guidelines.
The five-member CCJ panel found that the sentencing judge had justified the sentence in light of the Act, and that the judge was permitted by that Act to increase the starting sentence for personal aggravating factors and that these factors could include previous convictions.
However, the Trinidad-based court found that Greaves’ previous convictions were for minor offences that occurred decades ago and were not of a similar character to the offence charged, and, therefore, should not have been used to justify any increase of his sentence.
“The CCJ considered that the case fell most closely into the category of the Pierre Lorde Guidelines which suggested that in a manslaughter case where no firearm was used, an early guilty plea should result in the range of sentencing of 10-14 years,” the Court said on Thursday, adding that its Revised Guidelines also justified that range of sentencing.
“The CCJ, therefore, allowed the appeal and imposed a lesser notional sentence of 12 years, from which the 928 days spent on remand must be deducted.”
The CCJ panel, which comprised Justice Winston Anderson, Justice Jacob Wit, Justice Maureen Rajnauth-Lee, Justice Denys Barrow, and Justice Andrew Burgess, also commented on the need to consider the Revised Guidelines in the context of the Offences Against the Person Act as amended in 2018, which introduced life imprisonment and a term of imprisonment as possible sentences for murder.
Attorney-at-law Dennis Headley appeared for Greaves in the appeal while Alliston Seale and Oliver J. M. Thomas appeared for the Crown. (DP)