Over the past 10 years or so the Director of Public Prosecutions, Shalimar Ali Hack, along with the Judiciary, has agreed to numerous ludicrous decisions to accept mitigating pleas of manslaughter in cases where an abundance of evidence exists of calculated (pre-meditated) murder. It is indeed shocking that a man, Raymond O’Selmo, who stabbed Nadina Kalamadeen, a 35-year-old mother of 5 children multiple times to death in 2019, was given an incomprehensible sentence by Justice Priya Sewnarine-Beharry of 10 years on the lesser charge of manslaughter. Deduction for remand time indicates that he will be free in 5 years. It is commonplace that charges of murder are too frequently watered down to manslaughter and consequently accepted by the courts in Guyana with a huge preponderance of cases involving women being killed by men. It must be noted that Guyana has one of the highest levels of gender-based violence in the world (1 in 2 women will endure violence) according to the UN Women Survey. Raymond O’Selmo was rejected by Nadina Kalamadeen and unleashed a most savage, bloody attack, and now the question: this type of person will be free to commit further acts of violence in just a few years?
Such haphazard sentencing has become the norm in what passes for accurate Jurisprudence. A few previous cases will suffice. On November 17, 2020, Justice Navindra Singh released Devon Chacon for time served; meaning Chacon served three years not in jail but on remand for his ‘sentenced’ to 3 years !! There can be no mitigating circumstances – scientific or interpretative – that can allow for any leniency of this magnitude. (Possession of marijuana joint carries a regular sentence of 31/2 years). Devon Chacron armed himself with a gun, entered the home of Abdool Subrati then shot him to death. This is clearly a premeditated act so why would any layman–much less a judge—conclude otherwise? In his brief address, Justice Singh said that he did not have much to say as both sides (defense and prosecution) ‘had an extensive discussion regarding the matter and knew what has been decided upon.’ This very Judge Navindra Singh in 2018, sentenced Andy Boodram to life in prison, for severely wounding his neighbor Deonarine Persaud, who had asked him to turn down the volume of the music he was playing. Last week the Court of Appeal reduced that asinine sentence to nine years against finding that the life sentence imposed against him for the offense of felonious wounding was too severe.
Days after Justice Navindra Singh’s expression of absurdity, a magistrate (Renita Singh) jails a man for six months for stealing toilet paper. But this is not a new phenomenon; way back around 1990 Magistrate Juliet Holder Alleyne sentenced a man for stealing a pound of cheese (from Geddes Grant, now Courts) for 6 months.
The comical sentence was handed down by Justice Simone Morris Ramlall when Kurt Erskine, the killer, left his place of residence on July 05, 2015, armed himself with a gun and traveled miles, and shot Ganesh Ramlall (Boyo) to death at La Jalousie, West Coast Demerara. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter and received 15 years in a most bizarre decision by the judge. The Citi-Mall owner was shot eight times! Faizal Bacchus, the lookout/ informer was freed (sentenced to time served) after pleading to the lesser count of manslaughter when this was a clear-cut case of conspiracy to premeditated murder! Lenox Roberts, the third person charged in the murder, received a similar slap on the wrist in what is a clear case of a conspiracy to commit murder.
Then there was a case where a high-ranking military officer in the People’s Militia stole a suitcase of sneakers around 1995, which was in Customs, from the now publisher of Kaieteur News. He was charged, appeared in front of a City magistrate, apologized, and was set free.
Take for example the sentence handed down by Justice Simone Morris Ramlall three months ago when Kurt Erskine the killer left his place of residence on July 05, 2015, armed himself with a gun and traveled miles, and shot Ganesh Ramlall (Boyo) to death at La Jalousie, West Coast Demerara. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter and received 15 years in a most bizarre decision by the judge. The Citi-Mall owner was shot eight times! Faizal Bacchus, the lookout/ informer was freed (sentenced to time served) after pleading to the lesser count of manslaughter when this was a clear-cut case of conspiracy to premeditated murder! Lenox Roberts, the third person charged in the murder, received a similar slap on the wrist in what is a clear case of a conspiracy to commit murder. One can surmise that Justice Ramlall was asleep when the murder took place, but was she asleep during the trial?
Now there are 4 modes of crime:
1. Acting purposely – the defendant had an underlying conscious object to act.
2. Acting knowingly – the defendant is practically certain that the conduct will cause a particular result.
3. Acting recklessly – The defendant consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustified risk.
4. Acting negligently – The defendant was not aware of the risk, but should have been aware of the risk.
In legal terms these men possessed a guilty mind, the so-called Mens Rea which refers to criminal intent, therefore sentencing should be in accordance with this factor. Thus, a crime committed purposefully and knowingly should carry a more severe punishment than if the offender acted recklessly, or negligently. There is an urgent need for a sentencing policy and the Attorney General along with the Chief Justice and Chancellor of the Judiciary must construct the appropriate guidelines.