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Court of appeal reduces convict’s sentence from 20 to 15 years

Court of appeal reduces convict’s sentence  from 20 to 15 years

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As a result of the decision of an appeal tribunal, Atiba Bess will now serve 15 years of the 20-year custodial sentence he received on a manslaughter charge November 2, 2012.{{more}}

At the sitting of the Court of Appeal on Tuesday at the High Court, Bess’ attorney, Stephen Williams, successfully appealed the sentence on the grounds that more weight should have been attached to the mitigating circumstances of his client.

On Friday, May 25, 2012, at the Criminal Assizes, Bess, who was initially charged with the murder of Sherene Clouden, pleaded not guilty to murder and guilty to manslaughter.

Clouden was killed on December 8, 2008.

On that tragic night, the deceased, 23, of Edinboro, went with Jomo Brudy and Theron Prince to the home of Carlos Franklin of Ottley Hall to put lights on at the house.

At the time, Franklin was incarcerated and Brudy was the caretaker of the house. When they were there, at about 6:30 p.m., a man accosted them as to why they were in the area.

The man said it was okay for Brudy to be there, but not Prince. He further said “We going hot up the place”.

After doing what they had to do at Franklin’s house, Brudy, Prince and Clouden were walking in the main road when Brudy and Clouden were shot.

Clouden died on the spot.

During the appeal, Williams said even though the learned trial judge took into account that the appellant was only 16 at the time of the offence, that he had a young child who was born while he was in jail, and that he was deemed a strong candidate for rehabilitation, sufficient weight was not given to these mitigating factors. Williams acknowledged that a firearm was used and a woman lost her life. He, however, said there was no evidence that there was gang involvement.

At Bess’ sentencing hearing in November 2012, the judge, Frederick Bruce-Lyle, had said “He may not have intended for the person to die, but he used a firearm and in the process someone lost their life and it was all in the pursuit of gang involvement.”

Bruce-Lyle also said “…I’m taking this thing with gang warfare in SVG very seriously. We need to take stock of ourselves and we need to clamp down on our youth.”

Williams, continuing his appeal earlier this week, argued that the sentence was excessive in the circumstances and asked for it to be reduced.

Crown counsel Ayanna Baptiste-DaBreo, in her response, said when the circumstances are looked at and the fact that Bess went with a gun to meet these persons, it outweighs the fact that he was a young person of 16. She also stated that Bess knew the consequences of his actions.

Appeal judge Louise Blenman said the aggravating and mitigating factors “balance out” each other in the circumstances.

“The judge failed to properly take into consideration the relevant legal principles that should be applied in determining the appropriate sentence. In circumstances where the appellant was at a tender age at the time of the commission of the offence, pleaded guilty and had no previous convictions…,” Bleman stated.

The sentence was reduced from 20 years to 15 years. (KW)

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