High Court judge gives young offender a second chance
A juvenile offender would not be treated in the same way as an adult offender.
The was the position of Justice Brian Cottle which he expressed during the sentencing of Kishroy “Orchard” John at the High Court last Friday.
John had pleaded guilty to the manslaughter (by reason of provocation) of Campden Park resident Winston Sinel “Bono” Williams. The older man died from an injury to the back of the head, inflicted by a three inch stone that John threw. Williams was taken to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) after the September 25, 2016 incident, before succumbing to the blunt force trauma on October 1, 2016.
Last Friday, the 20-year-old, who was 17 when he committed the offence, walked out of the High Court, free for the first time in two years, five months and 12 days. A jail sentence of one year, six and a half months had been handed down by Cottle, but the judge chose to suspend it.
The reasons he gave for suspending the sentence was the offender’s tender age at the time of the offence, his lack of a criminal record before that point, and his candidacy for rehabilitation.
Therefore, for the next two years, as this is the length of time that Cottle has suspended the prison sentence for, John’s freedom will be dependent on his toeing the line.
Before Cottle arrived at this term, he had to determine a starting point from which he was going to calculate. The Court of Appeal has traditionally determined that Justices must start at 15 years for the offence, he said, but “I think that that is apt for adult offenders, and juveniles must” be dealt with differently.
Following this, he started at 10 years in prison.
For mitigating circumstances, Cottle noted that John was not yet an adult when he committed the offence. The judge stated that John has had a “difficult upbringing,” considering that both his parents were in jail at one point.
John’s mother was murdered when he was 10 years old, and he was living with her when she was killed. Cottle further noted that John’s father was an alcoholic.
“He (John) was faced with his neighbours laughing at him at the thought that he had been a victim of a previous homosexual activity,” the Justice intoned, noting that this was when the 17-year-old lost self control.
“It was only a single blow to the deceased which caused his death,” Cottle continued, stating that John had co-operated fully with the police.
He also considered an affidavit by John’s former secondary school principal, which attested to John’s character. The principal indicated that despite a 27% attendance, John had managed to pass four subjects. He indicated in his affidavit that he believed that John was a good candidate for rehabilitation.
Based on these mitigating features, Cottle reduced the sentence by four years. For the guilty plea the Justice applied the required one third discount, and the final sentence was four years. Time served was subtracted from this.
The deceased had lived next to John in a wood and ply house, and he and the teenager were apparently close before his death. John had benefited from help from Williams over the years, who purchased school books and his uniform for him.
On the day in question, the two got into an argument. John contends that this started when the deceased asked John to give back to him, the items he had given him before. During this argument, John called Williams a “b*llerman”.
The deceased responded by saying, “if me is a b*llerman me b*ll you already and the tone burn your bottom.”
Other persons were there and they laughed at this, and amidst their laughter the 17-year-old picked up a stone and threw it at Williams, who was walking away.
The 49-year-old fell forward into his doorway. Persons who assisted him saw blood coming from his nose, ears and mouth.
John went back into his house briefly, before leaving the scene. However, later on during that day he handed himself over to the police. He confessed to the crime and expressed his regret.
The acting Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Sejilla McDowall and crown counsel Tammeka DaSilva-McKenize prosecuted, and lawyer Patina Knights defended.
The 20-year-old could not help smiling when he exited the court with his lawyer, without handcuffs, but the joy was overflowing for one woman who was with him. The older woman was overcome with emotion and embraced him tightly outside of the court.