Jul 25, 2019 News
Paul Anthony Lo-Hing who strangled his common-law wife Shoala Gilgeous was handed an 83-year jail sentence for her murder which occurred on August 6, 2012, at their ‘E’ Field, Sophia, Greater Georgetown home. That sentence has now been reduced to 30 years by the Court of Appeal which substituted his murder conviction with the lesser charge of manslaughter yesterday.
Time already served by Lo-Hing is to be deducted from the new sentence, the court ordered.
In setting aside the murder conviction, the Court of Appeal comprising Chancellor of the Judiciary Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Justices of Appeal Dawn Gregory and Rishi Persaud held that the trial was unsatisfactory due to the trial judge (Navindra Singh)’s failure, in his charge to the jury, to set out the defences of self defence and provocation, given the circumstances of the case.
The Court of Appeal held that this could have reduced the jury’s verdict to manslaughter.
According to the Court of Appeal, there was evidence that the couple had a visiting relation, and that on the day in question they were heard by neighbours arguing before the place went silent. It was revealed in court that the argument between the couple started after Lo-Hing inquired of his wife as to where she was going.
The Court of Appeal, therefore, said that it was for the trial judge to put, for one, the defence of provocation to the jury for it to consider whether an action or behaviour could have caused a temporary loss of self control on the part of Lo-Hing.
The Chancellor had this to say, “The appellant (Lo-Hing) was robbed of the jury’s consideration of that defence.”
In arriving at a sentence for Lo-Hing, Justice Singh started at a base of 60 years. The Judge added 10 years to the sentence for the cruel manner in which the woman met her demise; 10 years for evidence of an intention to kill and six years because the case was a domestic violence-related matter. Three years was taken off by the judge for the time the convicted killer spent on remand pending trial, bringing the sentence to 83 years.
Lo-Hing’s lawyer Everton Singh-Lammy argued that the sentence was excessive. In addressing this issue, Justice Cummings-Edwards said that while the basis for a base of 60 years was unknown, the trial judge did provide reasons for aggravating factors which led to an increase in the sentence.
The appellate court went on to enlighten that the nature and circumstance, degree of planning and premeditation, prevalence of the offence, antecedents, age, character of an accused person and time spent in pre-trial custody, are among the factors to be considered when considering an appropriate sentence.
“And the list is not exhausted,” the Chancellor noted, adding that the trial judge erred in principle. Justice Cummings-Edwards said that from examining the records of appeal, the court found that no plea in mitigation was made on behalf on behalf of Lo-Hing, neither was a probation report ordered or requested.
Judge Singh, before whom Lo-Hing was tried in 2014, imposed the custodial sentence following a trial at the High Court in Georgetown. Based on that which was adduced at trial, Lo-Hing and Gilgeous lived in Sophia where they shared a turbulent one-year relationship. The woman was eventually killed; she was found dead by relatives who ventured into her home in search of her. Government Pathologist Dr. Nehaul Singh determined her cause of death to be asphyxiation due to manual strangulation, compounded by blunt trauma.
To prove its case, the State relied on circumstantial evidence, including a caution statement from Lo-Hing which confirmed that he was with the woman before she was found dead and evidence that the couple was heard by neighbours quarrelling. Further, there was evidence that the couple lived together and from the post mortem report, the injuries Gilgeous sustained were consistent with those received by someone who had to defend herself.
While leading his defence, Lo-Hing denied killing the woman. He had told the jury that both of them were at home when Gilgeous told him that she was going out. According to him, she left and never returned. In another breath, he denied being at the scene of the crime, and insisted that he was at his father’s residence on the day in question.
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