Appeal Court upholds 28-year jail sentence for child rapist

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Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

A man who claimed that his conviction for child rape was unsafe and that his 28-year jail sentence was excessive, did not sway the Court of Appeal (CoA) of Guyana to rule in his favour.

In 2018, 28-year-old Colvin Norton was found guilty by a mixed 12-member jury on two counts of the offence of engaging in sexual penetration with a child under the age of 16.

The charges against Norton had stated that he sexually penetrated a six-year-old girl on August 1, 2013, and then again on August 6 of that same year. He was 19 years old at the time.

Demerara High Court Judge Jo Ann Barlow sentenced him to 24 years in prison on the first count and 28 years on the second count, ordering that the two sentences be served concurrently.

Colvin Norton

In Norton’s appeal against his convictions and sentences, his lawyers Dexter Todd and Dexter Smartt contended, among other things, that their client’s convictions were unsafe, that the Judge’s summation was unbalanced, and that he did not have a fair trial.

They also contended that the sentences imposed by the trial Judge were manifestly excessive given the circumstances of the case and not in keeping with established sentencing guidelines.

Evidence presented during Norton’s trial revealed that after he had raped the girl for the first time, he told her not to tell anyone as her mother would not believe her.

It was also revealed that he had also threatened the girl, that if she told her mother, he would kill her and her mother. The second time, he was caught in the act by the child’s mother.

In delivering the CoA’s decision on Monday, acting Chancellor of the Judiciary Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards recalled the facts of the matter, particularly that the young girl told her mother that Norton took off her clothes and put his penis into her vagina.

According to the Chancellor, the child’s mother had testified that on April 6, 2013, she was outside of her home doing laundry when Norton came and asked how long she would take.

When the woman told him that she had a while, Norton left and went inside the house, Justice Cummings-Edwards disclosed. She said when the woman ventured into the house, she caught Norton raping her daughter and screamed, resulting in him running away.

A report was made to the Police and Norton was subsequently arrested and prosecuted.

Todd and Smartt had argued that the jury’s verdict was unsafe and unsatisfactory since the results of a medical examination performed on the child did not show “abrasions and bruises” in her private area. According to the CoA, a doctor testified that her hymen was not intact and that her vaginal area was inflamed, which is consistent with something large being forced into there.

Given the Judge’s directions to the jury on how to treat this evidence, especially her advising them that this does not mean that it was Norton who committed the act, Justice Cummings-Edwards said that the “verdict cannot be said to be unsafe or unsatisfactory”.

The convict’s lawyers’ contention that his sentences were excessive was also rejected by the appellate court. The CoA held that the trial Judge considered all relevant factors before passing the sentences, including the victim’s age, Norton’s age at the time, him being a first-time offender, the seriousness of the offence, and the repeated acts of rape committed by him.

Not excessive

Accordingly, the Appeal Court dismissed Norton’s appeal against his convictions and sentences and affirmed the decision of the trial court. “We don’t find that the sentence was excessive or that it erred in principle,” remarked the Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag).

At Norton’s sentencing hearing in April 2018, the child, in her impact statement, had expressed that she still gets flashbacks about the incident, which she blamed for causing a decline in her grades at school. At first, she said she felt sad and as though she was the cause of it happening. However, after realising that she was not the only child who had something like this happen to them and that Norton would be punished, the girl said she was not ashamed anymore.

High Court Judge Barlow, in sentencing the convict, considered his age at the time of the commissioning of the offence, but stressed that it was not an excuse for violating the young girl.

She also considered that the offender breached the trust of the child’s mother, who had entrusted him to care for not only the six-year-old but others as well. “Like a thief in the night, you violated a six-year-old,” the Judge had told the sex offender.

According to Justice Barlow, Norton trying to silence the victim showed his total disregard for proper moral values. Because sex offenders have issues with controlling their emotions, she ordered that Norton undergo treatment under the sex offender’s rehabilitation programme.

Justice Barlow also ordered the prison service to expose him to programmes to improve his literacy and expressed hope for the victim to continue receiving counselling.