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Paraplegic prisoner fails in his bid for a reduced sentence

Paraplegic prisoner fails in his bid for a reduced sentence
Casseon Pereira being wheeled out of the High Court by another prisoner

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A prisoner who has been paralyzed because of injuries from a fall he took while in prison, has failed to argue that, because of his condition, he should get a lesser sentence.

Casseon Pereira was able-bodied when he was sentenced at the Serious Offences Court last year for wounding his sister Tamisia Pereira, when he chopped her on the hand with a cutlass on August 24, 2017.

But yesterday, the prisoner had to be taken to the dock at the High Court while in a wheelchair, relying on the aid of four police officers.

The dock and access to it is not designed for wheelchair restricted individuals, causing the Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) Dame Janice Pereira to comment that it was time to get facilities that take account of persons with affirmities.

The prisoner had no lawyer. He started off by telling the three Justices of Appeal that for the time that he has been in prison, he has never been rude to the prison officers and never unmannerly.

He used to go out to do work during his sentence, and eventually, he said, he was sent to Belle Isle prison on a farm. Casseon then explained that he fell into a hole, dropped on his back, damaged his nerves, and now he is paralyzed.

The prisoner says that he feels pain from his head “right down to my foot”.

The Justices of Appeal asked him if he was saying he was wrongly convicted, because his conviction was supposed to be one of the things he was appealing.

However, Casseon answered that he wants “to get a lesser sentence because of the condition which I dey in now”.

All the Justices, which included, Justices of Appeal Mario Michel, Louise Esther Blenman and the Chief Justice felt that the sentence was fair.

“The Judge was very fair to you. You didn’t do bad at all. You did very well. The Judge could have given you a higher one,” Blenman told him, noting that the wounding was a serious one.

She also commented, “the other thing you’re talking to us about that’s happened in prison, in terms of your injury, that is a matter for you to raise with them to see if they can do anything about treating you.”

She told him that he could talk to the prison authorities separately.

“What we are required to do is to look at the sentence and to see whether we think the judge got it wrong. And in our view the Judge didn’t get it wrong,” Blenman continued.

“…Even though you may have other circumstances, then it’s for the prison authorities,” the Chief Justice clarified.

“It is not for the court to look at the sentence and say that the sentence is unfair because of the particular circumstances that you are now suffering,” she stated.

Among the reasons why the Justices felt that the sentence was fair was that Casseon knew “a little about prison” before the wounding offence.

He had six previous convictions, which included one for murder. The charge of the murder of one Sheron Jack, who was killed on January 28, 2005, had been reduced to manslaughter in the end. Casseon was sentenced to eight years in 2007.

Now, he is serving a sentence for wounding his sister, but Casseon stated that he just fired a chop because his sister had aggravated him.

“So you were just firing the chop at the wind?” Justice of Appeal Michel asked him.

Casseon responded that he just intended to plan her.

In the same breath that he said he loved his sister, Casseon also said that she was telling lies on him.

He was asked if that was how he treated someone that he loves.

“And you chop her for nonsense,” Justice Blenman commented. The Justice was referring to the fact that Casseon attacked his sister after she told him “I thought you changed, but you still love comess.”

Blenman told the prisoner that this should not have caused him to cuff her “much less chop her.”

They also noted that the wound was serious, and listed the injuries, which included reduction in motion from the shoulder, sensitivity in her arm, and that her fingers cannot extend.

Casseon insisted that it was “one set ah lie them a tell,” and that the damage wasn’t significant.

“Well you seem to be questioning the doctor, questioning everyone, and not really accepting responsibility,” the Chief Justice noted, continuing, “That is very concerning…especially given your prior history.”

In the end they saw no reason to disturb the sentence and upheld both conviction and sentence.

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