A High Court judge who jailed a man who sexually assaulted his teenage daughter has suggested that the Sexual Offences Act be revisited to provide harsher penalties for people who commit incest against older victims.
Madam Justice Pamela Beckles made the suggestion on Thursday supporting Principal State Counsel Krystal Delaney who expressed a similar opinion in February.
She was speaking in the No. 5 Supreme Court as she imposed a starting sentence of nine and half years in prison on an incestuous father. The convicted molester committed the offences in 2018 at the age of 42 when his 17-year-old daughter went to his house to spend time with him after years of not having done so.
Under the Sexual Offences Act, a person who commits incest on a person over the age of 14 years old can be jailed for up to ten years, while that maximum sentence increases to life in prison if the act is committed on a younger person.
“I must say that I agree with the submission raised by the prosecutor and think that maybe the time has come for the sentence especially as it relates to incest of a young person under the age of 18 to be revisited. I would even go as far as to suggest that it should be adjusted upwards to 15 years instead of ten years,” Justice Beckles said.
“This court notes that the crime of incest involves the sexual penetration of a child which is, by its very nature, an act of violence. The significance of the violence and harm which such conduct entails cannot be overstated. Incest undermines the role of guardianship and destroys the entire concept of family unity.”
The judge said that in the case before her, there could be no doubt that the threshold for a custodial sentence had been crossed.
“. . . . Even though no weapon was used or violence threatened, this court finds that the act of incest by its very nature is a crime of violence and, therefore, . . . I cannot see how in the circumstances the starting point can be far removed from the maximum penalty of these offences,” she said. “Nine and a half years is an appropriate starting point for the commission of these offences.”
Justice Beckles then moved the nine-year starting point downwards by one year, given that the convict’s mitigating factors outweighed the aggravating features. He was then given a one-third discount for his guilty plea, leaving him with 2 068 days or five years and 243 days left to serve in prison. The sentences will run concurrently.
“Part of a father’s role and responsibility is to protect and care for his daughter not to defile and abuse her as you have done,” she told the 46-year-old man. “These serious offences on your part have and continue to have a profound traumatic effect on your daughter and can no way be excused. The sentence imposed . . . is to deter you and others from such offences, with punishment deterrence and denunciation being the most relevant consideration.”
Beckles also made it clear that had it not been for the maximum penalty being only ten years in this case, as well as the sentencing guidelines which bind the court, “I would have been looking at a much higher sentence and I make no apologies for saying that”.
The judge ordered that during his incarceration, the father must undergo psychological counselling programmes recommended by the prison psychologist.
Noting that the victim had received no offer of counselling to date, Justice Beckles extended one to her, “even at this late stage”.
“And it is the hope of this court that she accepts this counselling which will be carried out by a state institution,” the judge