High Court judge Madam Justice Pamela Beckles warned on Thursday that people who have sex with minors will face harsh punishment once convicted.
“Sexual assaults upon young children must be severely punished, and those who engage in this evil conduct must go to prison for a long period of time, not only to punish them but also in an endeavour to deter others who might have similar inclinations,” she said as she imposed a 15-year starting sentence on child rapist Shawn Akeem Rodney Daniel, of Airy Hill, St Joseph.
“This court must serve notice upon such offenders that heavy custodial sentences will be imposed in these circumstances and that the courts will play their proper role in protecting young people from sexual attacks by adults.
“Even if the children are willing participants, they must be protected from sexual conduct because the law deems persons of that age unable to give informed consent; therefore, consent can never be a mitigating factor or defence,” the judge added.
Rodney had admitted in the No. 5 Supreme Court that he, along with two other persons, had sexual intercourse with a 12-year-old girl between May 18 and 19, 2014.
“You stated to the court that you did not rape the complainant or ‘nothing so’, that you were talking on Facebook and you told her that you wanted sex, and she was like ‘okay’, ’cause she knew me fuh a time . . . . We didn’t have sex more than once’.
“This is disgusting and unacceptable. You were 21 years old at the time, and the complainant was only 12 years old . . . . You were therefore mature enough to appreciate the consequences of your actions.
“You have asked for a non-custodial sentence or to be placed at Verdun House; however, I cannot accede to your request. You also informed the court that you are the father of a nine-year-old daughter. I’m sure that you would not want her to be subjected to this type of sexual conduct which you exposed the complainant to,” Justice Beckles said.
The 15-year prison sentence she started with was adjusted downward by three years, given the mitigating factors that included Daniel’s guilty plea which resulted in, among other things, sparing the complainant from having to relive the experience by giving evidence in court; his cooperation with police during investigations; his expression of remorse; and the nine-year delay in the matter being heard before the court.
A significant aggravating factor regarding Daniel as an offender was that he had a previous conviction for a sexual offence, buggery, against a female.
The aggravating features of the crime, the judge told Daniel, were the nature and gravity of statutory rape and the prevalence of the offence in society; the number of offenders engaged in the act; and that the victim was “subjected to further sexual indignities or perversion by you pertaining to [two] other persons”.
She also pointed out that Daniel had exposed the victim to the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases and/or unwanted pregnancy, as well as breached her trust, as he befriended her on Facebook. The disparity in the ages of Daniel and his victim, and the fact that there was some level of planning involved in the offence as it was not spontaneous, were also taken into consideration.
“There are no mitigating factors to the offence . . . but to say that no physical force was used or threats were made during the commission of the offence,” the judge added.
Of the remaining 12-year sentence, Daniel was given a one-third discount for his guilty plea and credit was given for the 798 days he had already spent on remand, leaving him with 2 122 days, or five years and 297 days, to serve in jail.
“During your period of incarceration, you are ordered to enrol in any skills training, vocational or educational programmes offered by the prison which may be of assistance to you upon your release,” Justice Beckles added.
Daniel was represented by attorney-at-law Marlon Gordon and State Counsel Tito Holder was the prosecutor.