Two men involved in an altercation over unpaid bus fare that resulted in injury to one and a conviction for the other were told that the situation should not have escalated as it did.
“It didn’t need to end up here” Justice Christopher Birch told convicted man Marville Jamal Harper, of Rock Hampton Road, Jackson, St Michael on Tuesday in the presence of complainant Akil Turton in the No 5a Supreme Court.
Harper had pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of unlawfully wounding Turton on September 4, 2012.
The court heard from Senior Crown Counsel Oliver Thomas that Turton boarded the vehicle in one area and Harper, the conductor, got on in Jackson.
Turton subsequently disembarked in Warrens and walked to the back of the van to cross the road. Harper stopped him and asked whether he had paid the fare. Turton “was making sport” and told him that he had paid the driver, which was denied.
Harper got aggressive and there was an exchange of words which led to the men poking each other in the face, then pushing. There was a chase around the van.
During that time the convicted picked up “two big rocks”. The first he threw hit Turton in the left buttocks causing him to fall to the ground along with a pair of scissors which he had. Harper then threw the second rock which struck Turton in his face which resulted in blurry vision and a bloody mouth. Harper ran away.
Turton sought medical attention and received nine stitches to his mouth, a front tooth was missing and two others were shaking.
Thomas said the matter was reported to the police. Turton said he was only “making sport” with Harper at the time and he did not “provoke or interfere” with him.
Investigations got underway and Harper was interviewed.
“I went to the fella for bus fare, he tells me he paid the driver, so I turned and asked him what freaky vibes he pun. So me and he exchange words. He then push his hand in his pocket so I step back. He pulled out a scissors and I ran. He ran behind me I then armed myself with two rocks. He kept coming towards me and I struck him with the rock,” Harper told the police then.
Before the High Court today the convicted man apologized.
“I want to start by apologizing to the court, to the complainant for what I have done. On the day in question things could have played out much better. I can’t say that I would go on anyone job site to make sport because at the end of the day everyone know . . . the hustle. But for my action I take full responsibility but I will like you to be as lenient as possible to me. My convictions is my past, I trying to put my past behind me to move forward with my life. I is an honest working man, I have three children, looking for better things in life,” he said.
Thomas and Harper’s attorney Brian Clarke in their submissions on sentencing posited that compensation would meet the justice of the case.
Justice Birch agreed and imposed a starting sum of $15 000. However after crediting Harper with the one third discount for his guilty plea and taking into consideration all the mitigating and aggravating factors the judge ordered that he pay $10 000 in nine months or face the alternative of two years in prison.
Justice Birch said while there is a certain discourse on public transport that could turn “robust” on that day “a good joke went too far” – a joke about payment. “It didn’t need to end up here,” he added.
“Unfortunately it got way out of hand way too quickly and it should never have come to the stage where people jump out a van chasing one another, looking to fight one another, over what? It should not come to that.
“Conflict resolution is the solution. . . While we may hear the gun cases [and] oh in the old days it was big rocks, it’s like we forget that big rocks carry a lethality, a damage index on their own because like a bullet, a big rock does not come back when you call.
“We need to be quicker of thought, slower of tongue and when it comes to misuse of our hands we need sometimes to come to a dead stop. This is regrettable, it did not need to be so,” the judge said.