The State v E.M.

JurisdictionTrinidad & Tobago
JudgeJustice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds
Judgment Date23 January 2024
Neutral CitationTT 2024 HC 28
Docket NumberCR-HC-POS-IND-738-2022-1
CourtHigh Court (Trinidad and Tobago)
The State
and
E.M.

For

Unlawful Wounding
Before

The Honourable Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds

CR-HC-POS-IND-738-2022-1

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

Criminal Division

Appearances:

Ms C. Samuel, Ms M. Mendez and Ms G. Guy for the State.

Ms K. Peters for the Prisoner.

SENTENCING RULING
INTRODUCTION
1

By an Indictment filed on 29 August 2022, the Prisoner EM was charged with unlawful wounding. The particulars are that he, on 16 February 2011 at Sangre Grande, in the County of St Andrew, unlawfully and maliciously wounded RJ 1 (hereinafter referred to as the VC).

2

On 14 December 2023, I gave a Maximum Sentence Indication (MSI) of one year imprisonment should the Prisoner plead guilty to the offence as charged.

3

On 18 January 2023, the Prisoner indicated his acceptance of the MSI and he pleaded guilty as charged and on the basis of the facts which had been filed during the MSI process. Subsequently, the allocutus was put to the Prisoner and a plea in mitigation was made on his behalf by Defence Counsel.

4

The Prisoner now falls to be sentenced.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND
5

At the material time, the Prisoner lived in Sangre Grande and shared this home with KB, his common-law wife. They had an infant boy and the Prisoner's name appears on the child's Birth Certificate as father. As it turns out, the VC habitually visited KB (about three times a month), but restricted those trysts to weekdays between the hours of 8:00 am and 11:00 am, when the Prisoner would be away at work.

6

Around 10:00 am on 16 February 2011, two days after Valentine's Day as fate would have it, the Prisoner returned unexpectedly from work. From outside, he saw the VC sitting on the couch. He asked the VC, “What going on here?” and the VC replied, “Nothing”. The Prisoner then took up a straight handle cutlass from behind the washing machine before entering the house. He called to the VC to come outside, but the VC refused. The Prisoner then swung the cutlass at the VC. The VC raised his right hand to block the attack and received a chop to the said hand which began bleeding.

7

The Prisoner then went outside and warned the VC that he “have more chop to get so come out (he) place”. The common-law wife KB made a telephone call to the police reporting the incident. When the police officers arrived, they observed the Prisoner outside of the house with the cutlass in his hand. PC David ordered the Prisoner to place the cutlass on the ground and place his hands in the air. Though the Prisoner complied, he said to the VC, “You lucky I doh have meh gun on meh”. The Prisoner was later arrested, cautioned, and informed him of his constitutional rights and privileges. Upon arrest, he remained silent.

SENTENCING PRINCIPLES
8

The authorities are well-settled as to the aims of sentencing and the methodology to be used by sentencing judges. The five principal objects of sentencing are set out in Benjamin v R 2, and bear repeating:

  • i. The retributive or denunciatory, which is the same as the punitive;

  • ii. The deterrent vis-à-vis potential offenders;

  • iii. The deterrent vis-à-vis the particular offender then being sentenced;

  • iv. The preventative, which aims at preventing the particular offender from again offending by incarcerating him for a long period; and

  • v. The rehabilitative, which contemplates the rehabilitation of the particular offender so that he might resume his place as a lawabiding member of society. 3

9

Of course, certain of these objects may loom larger than others 4, depending on the individual facts of each case.

10

I have also been guided by the four-tiered methodology which is expected to be applied by all sentencing judges, as set out by their Lordships in Aguillera, Ballai, Ballai and Ayow v The State 5. The overall sentencing structure is set out as follows:

  • i. The calculation of the starting point which takes into account the aggravating and mitigating factors of the offence only; these are the objective circumstances which relate to the gravity of the offence itself and which assist in gauging the seriousness, that is the degree of the harmfulness of the offence;

  • ii. An upward or downward adjustment of the starting point (or dependent on the circumstances, and if there is in effect, a cancelling out, no adjustment at all), which takes into account

    the aggravating and mitigating factors relative to the offender; these are the subjective circumstances of the offender which in turn inform the degree of culpability of the particular offender;
  • iii. (Where appropriate), a discount for a guilty plea; any deviation from the discount requires particularly careful justification and an explanation which is clearly expressed; and

  • iv. Credit for the period of time spent in pre-trial custody. 6

11

In Jude John Arjoon v The State 7, the Court of Appeal included an additional final step to the Aguillera methodology, i.e., to incorporate ‘the totality principle’. In paragraph 117 of that decision, it was explained thus:

This final step will enjoin the sentencer, after the determination of the appropriate sentence(s) to be imposed, to “step back” and glean the intended sentence, whether individual or aggregate, consistent with the totality principle… The purpose of this final step is to ensure that the sentence(s) imposed is/are proportionate and not excessive.”

12

As this is the first sentencing consequent upon an MSI process since the Orlando Alexis v The State 8 decision, I took care to note the guidance of the Court of Appeal.

13

Section 14 of the Offences Against the Person Act 9 provides that any person who unlawfully and maliciously wounds or inflicts any grievous

bodily harm upon any other person either with or without any weapon or instrument is liable to imprisonment for five years
14

I took note of several precedents as I considered parity and proportionality in fixing a starting point. Some of the more notable cases are as follows:

  • a. The State v Basdeo Maharaj 10 - The Prisoner (the stepfather of the VC) struck the VC with a rolling pin on the middle of her forehead. The Prisoner pleaded guilty and had one previous conviction for wounding with intent. Lucky J (as the Justice of Appeal then was) imposed a bond in the sum of $5,000.00 to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for a period of one year.

  • b. The State v Roxanne Headley 11 - The victim and the 27 year old respondent lived in close proximity and had a history of animosity between them. The victim was seriously wounded by the respondent with a cutlass. As a result of the attack, the victim suffered permanent damage in the form of numbness, scarring and loss of the full use of two fingers. The respondent was charged with Wounding with Intent but she was found guilty of Unlawful Wounding and sentenced to three days' imprisonment. The State appealed the leniency of the sentence and the Court of Appeal varied the sentence upwards to nine months' imprisonment (three months' simple imprisonment and six months to be suspended; as well as community service not exceeding 100 hours).

  • c. Hollister Codrington v The State 12 - The victim had known the 66-year-old appellant for about fifteen years before the incident. They had shared an intimate relationship for about four months. The

    appellant approached the victim and harassed her, first about a gas cylinder and then about her seeing someone else. The appellant slapped the victim, then chopped her twice on the head and left leg with a cutlass. The appellant was charged with Wounding with Intent. He initially pleaded not guilty, but changed his plea to guilty of Unlawful Wounding. He was sentenced to two years' imprisonment with hard labour.
  • d. The State v Ramdeo Seecharan 13 - The accused and the victim had known each other for over 31 years. On 22 December 2005, the accused called out the victim from inside of his house. When the victim came out, the accused without saying anything, pulled out a cutlass from his waist and fired a chop at the victim. The victim blocked this chop with his left hand and moved backwards. He picked up a broom and tried to ward off the attack. However, he received additional chops, one to his left forearm and another to his right hand. The victim eventually ran into a neighbour's yard and the accused left the scene. The victim was taken to the hospital where he had surgery and was warded for 2 days. When the accused was arrested, he admitted to chopping the victim. The accused also received a wound to his forehead. In sentencing the accused, Boodoosingh J (Ag) (as the Justice of Appeal then was) considered the peculiar circumstances of the accused, including the following:

    • i. His age (47 years);

    • ii. His abuse of alcohol and drugs over the years;

    • iii. He had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity;

    • iv. He has no previous conviction or pending cases;

    • v. The attack on the victim was one isolated incident with whom he had no problems before;

    • vi. He admitted to what he had done;

    • vii. He had showed remorse;

    • viii. A doctor's opinion and recommendation that the accused would benefit from treatment for his depression; and

    • ix. He had spent two years in custody.

    With an appreciation of the indigence of the accused, Boodoosingh J indicated that there were limited sentencing options available to him and eventually sentenced the accused on his own bond in the sum of $5,000.00 to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for a period of one year.

TIER 1: FACTORS RELATIVE TO THE OFFENCE
15

As it relates to this case, the...

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