Teen to undergo counselling, pay compensation for lighting friend on fire
An 18-year-old has been ordered to undergo counselling and pay compensation after lighting another man on fire, because the said man referred to him by a derogatory term for a homosexual man.
Dominick Ashton was facing a serious charge at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court (KMC) on Tuesday, February 9, for which he could have incurred a hefty prison term, especially since he could not boast of a previously spotless criminal record.
He had pleaded guilty to the offence of, on December 24, 2020, in Kingstown, unlawfully and maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm on Kendall Baptiste of Campden Park.
Immediately thereafter, the visibly worried teen expressed with feeling that he did not want to go to jail.
Before the young man could plead his case, the court had to hear what actually happened on the day in question.
It is said Baptiste and Ashton know each other very well, as they would normally gamble and drink together in China Town, Kingstown.
At 8 am on Christmas Eve, Baptiste was drinking at a shop in China Town. At one point, he went into the shop to purchase more Sunset strong rum. As he exited the shop, Baptiste met the 18-year-old outside of the shop door, holding a glass of strong rum in his hand.
Baptiste asked Ashton’s friend for a cigarette, but Ashton told his friend not to give it to him. Baptiste responding by calling the teenager a “bulla man”.
Responding to this, Ashton threw his rum on Baptiste’s chest, lit a match, and threw this match on the rum. As a result, the Campden Park man was lit on fire, and sustained injuries to his neck and chest.
The matter was reported to the police and Baptiste visited the medical doctor, who recorded the extent of his injuries.
The 18-year-old was open in his discussions with the court this Tuesday.
He explained that in terms of employment, “I does get a little ‘hold on’ sometimes,” for which he receives $120 a week.
He also claimed that “Mr Julian Francis does give me little money every Friday”, of different sums. He said that this has been happening since “election time”.
However, he said that he has no money in a credit union or bank.
In terms of why he committed the act, the young man said that he and Baptiste are friends, and because he was drunk, they got into an argument. He said that he didn’t mean to do it. He asked if he could be forgiven for the act.
As per the medical record, the injuries received by the burnt man were not extensive.
On the other hand, Baptiste, who was also present, described that he felt “real” pain. However, when asked Baptiste disclosed that he was not admitted to the hospital, but was treated and discharged.
Baptiste wanted compensation to be paid to him, revealing that he was thinking of $700.
He expressed to the Magistrate his confusion as to why Ashton had burnt him, as it was “just talks”.
This query was directed towards Ashton who confirmed that there wasn’t bad blood between them. He informed that he hadn’t been thinking at the time, and had the rum in his hand.
People make mistakes the youth concluded, “I does mek mistake”, “I bun him and I sorry”.
He assured that if it was money Baptiste wanted, this would be paid, even if it was every week. He reiterated his desire not to go to jail.
When he began to seem emotional again, the magistrate told him that he was crying at that time because he didn’t want to go to jail but if this was the case, “don’t do things to go to jail.”
Prosecutor Corporal Corlene Samuel provided her thoughts on the matter as well. She acknowledged that looking at the injury forms the injuries were not extensive but noted “It could have been worse.”
“Yes (the defendant) wants to pay, the (victim) wants compensation… but also a message must be sent that what he did was wrong,” she stated.
Samuel said that one cannot, just because they feel offended by something someone said, behave in the manner in which Ashton did.
She mentioned Ashton’s past conviction, which was of a similar nature.
The magistrate observed that the defendant was a juvenile when he committed his first offence. The punishment then was that he would be sent to Marion House for nine months, and put on a curfew.
The young man disclosed that he went to Marion House to learn cosmetology and another skill.
“…He was taken on a tour of the prison in 2018, so already, since 2018 the court had its eyes on you to the extent that they would take you to the prison for a tour,” the magistrate commented.
“I’m thinking long and hard as to what I should do with him for many, many reasons,” the judicial officer said before standing the matter down.
“…To throw rum on somebody and light a match, that calls for a particular type of mind to do that because when you do that you expect an outcome,” Burnett said when the matter was re-called. Therefore, although the defendant is young “the seriousness of the offence ought not to be slighted by the court.”
The magistrate said that he had been contemplating some form of counselling, “Because he needs some help it seems.
Because if the first thing that will come to your mind is to throw rum and to light your friend…”
Ashton admitted to thinking a lot of things, having suicidal thoughts, and said that family doesn’t accept him because of his lifestyle. He revealed he was once sleeping in an abandoned house when someone came and shot at him and his friends.
Ashton’s mother who was present confirmed that her son had the means to pay any compensation ordered. She revealed that her son chose the lifestyle that he has now, because he had been living with his grandmother before and still visits her sometimes. She said nobody chased him away, “he chose to be the way he is right now.”
Ultimately, the court ordered compensation of $750 to be paid by May 15, or there will be a default of three months in prison. Additionally, Ashton must take part in one year of counselling at Marion House, with reports to be submitted to the court. If he fails to undergo counselling, he will spend 12 months in prison.
His next court date is August 31.
“…You have been sentenced according to law but you have also been given a chance by this court. It’s all up to you to make better of this opportunity,” Burnett told him.