Court of Appeal rejects prisoner’s request
The Court of Appeal has advised a man convicted of beating up another prisoner while in prison that he should focus his energy on more positive activities while in prison.
“If you continue with your good behaviour, I am sure they will recommend you for early release,” Justice of Appeal Gertel Thom told prisoner Damien Bristol, who appealed for the court to allow his most recent sentence of nine months to “run into” the 16-year sentence he was serving for wounding a middle aged woman.
Bristol, who was essentially asking for both of his sentences to run concurrently instead of consecutively, was unequivocally rejected.
The precise charge of which Bristol and two other prisoners, Preuben Lyttle and Carlos Penniston, were convicted was unlawfully and maliciously wounding one Roderick Alexander of Lowmans Hill, at the Belle Isle Correctional Facility on September 15, 2017. The three prisoners, one with a piece of wood, one with a piece of steel and the other with an ice pick “beat up” Alexander, and were only stopped by a prison officer who came to Alexander’s rescue.
“So in other words you get nothing for that. You beat up a man, take up a piece of wood, you and two others…and one stabbed him, another one hit him with a piece of steel… and nothing for that, because the sentence will run the same time as the sentence you’re in prison for. That’s what you’re asking the court to do?” Justice of Appeal Mario Michel questioned him matter-of-factly.
Bristol answered, “yes, please,” and the Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court(ECSC), Dame Janice Pereira engaged him as to his reasons.
Bristol said that he had accepted the judgment, but he explained that he was at prison for a long time, and that he got frustrated every day.
He agreed with the chief justice that this did not justify his behaviour.
She continued that one would think that “what you want to do is behave like a model citizen, so that all steps could be taken for early release. Not get frustrated and take it out on someone else.” She told him that the actions he chose to take benefited no-one.
Bristol insisted that he was a “more straight” person now.
Bristol also said that he had something to tell the Justices, and disclosed that he had drawn a house plan.
“Wonderful! You drew it?,” Pereira asked him, to which he responded that he did.
“That’s where you should be putting your energies. Why are you putting your energies to beating up on a man? That’s where your energies should be going…to positive things,” she told him, and he agreed with her.
“You clearly must have talent if you can draw an entire house plan,” Pereira stated, and Bristol again responded, “yes, your honour.”
“That’s where your energy should go. So put your frustration in drawing,” she advised.
It was at this point that Justice Thom advised him that if he continued his good behaviour then he would likely be recommended for early release. “So continue with your good behaviour,” Thom concluded.
However, the Chief Justice explained to him that the court could not do what he was asking it to do because it meant that he would get off “scot free” for injuring the man. She noted that if the court operated in this way, it would make a “mockery” out of the justice system.
Justice Michel pointed out that anyone could do anything in prison, if that were the case, smuggle weed, beat up prisoners or even beat up prison officers, and, as long as you were serving a long sentence, “it would make absolutely no difference.”
The appeal was ultimately dismissed on the basis that there was no merit.