Attorney-at-Law Arudranauth Gossai is arguing that should his client’s conviction for carnally knowing a girl be overturned, the Court of Appeal should not order a retrial, given the fact that new legislation now governs sexual offences, and the time that has elapsed between the commissioning of the offence and the looming ruling by the court.
His client, West Coast Berbice resident, Talbert McPherson was in 2014 found guilty and sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment for having carnal knowledge of an eight-year-old girl. McPherson committed the offence against the young girl between Wednesday 12th August and Thursday 13th August 2009.
During his arguments to the court, Gossai took issue with the summing up of trial judge Navindra Singh. He contended that the judge’s summation of the evidence to the jury was unbalanced and was more in favour of the prosecution’s case. For one, the lawyer pointed out that while the judge pointed out inconsistencies in his client’s unsworn testimony and that of the witness he called in his defence, he failed to do the same for the prosecution’s witnesses.
In his submissions before Chancellor of the Judiciary Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Justices of Appeal Rishi Persaud and Dawn Gregory, Gossai said that if the court should allow the appeal, a retrial should not be ordered, given the length of time that would have passed between the commissioning of the offence and the court’s ruling.
The lawyer pointed out that at the time of the commission of the offence, his client was tried under an Act that is no longer being used. He pointed out too that there is a high possibility that McPherson will not be able to lead his defence in the manner in which he did during his trial. He said that the prosecution might also have difficulties locating its witnesses as the offence was committed over a decade ago. Other factors, he said are to be considered, such as public interest.
Furthermore, Gossai contended that the sentence imposed on his client is unduly harsh. In support of his argument, he cited a similar case from the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in which the judge sentenced the accused persons to two and a half years imprisonment after factoring the time that had elapsed between the dates the offence was committed and conviction.
The Court of Appeal will resume hearing this matter on February 11, when State Prosecutor Natasha Backer will present arguments.
McPherson was tried before Justice Navindra Singh at the High Court in Berbice. It was previously reported that the child lived with her mother aunt and a cousin and had known McPherson, as he lived with her aunt and grandmother. On the day in question, her mother took the two children to her grandmother’s residence to stay for the night, because she was attending a wake.
Early in the night, they watched a movie with her grandmother after which she and her cousin retired to bed. She was lying on a mattress with others when she saw a shadow. The light from outside was shining in the room and she recognized the person to be McPherson who subsequently had sex with her.
The next day she informed her mother who reported the matter to the police. The child was taken to the hospital where it was observed that she had bruises on her vaginal wall and anus. When asked by the trial judge if he had anything to say in response to the jury’s verdict, McPherson said, “Sir with all due respect, I am not a violent person. I did not take the life of a person and I am still in trouble. I did not do it.”
The judge, however, indicated that he found McPherson’s remark strange, and asked him if he was “sick”, as he could not imagine why someone would want to do something like that to an eight-year-old girl. The convict had claimed that the girl’s family “are always after me; they always after me”.
During the trial, the prosecution called eight witnesses including the virtual complainant, her mother, grandmother, a doctor and police officers.
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