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Legal luminaries frown at Chuck’s outburst on Bryan’s 23-year sentence

Published:Tuesday | June 6, 2023 | 1:23 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter
Justice minister Delroy Chuck
Justice minister Delroy Chuck

THE HEAD of one of the island’s legal associations has described as inappropriate and concerning, utterances by Justice Minister Delroy Chuck expressing disappointment at rapist Davian Bryan’s 23-year sentence.

The 32-year-old sex offender, who had abducted three girls ages nine, 13 and 16 in separate incidents in St Thomas, was sentenced last Wednesday by Justice Courtney Day in the St Thomas Circuit Court.

Bryan had pleaded guilty on May 11 to five counts of rape, one count of grievous sexual assault, three counts of forcible abduction and three counts of indecent sexual assault, which took place in St Thomas in 2021.

His sentences range from eight to 23 years. The judge, however, ruled that he should serve 16 years before being eligible for parole.

Reacting to the sentence, the justice minister, in a statement yesterday, said a sentence of life imprisonment may have been more appropriate as “Bryan demonstrated, by his own admission, that he is a sexual predator”.

He also reiterated the need, in all cases including where the offenders have pleaded guilty, to consult with victims or their families on a suitable sentence.

“The public must note that the Criminal Justice (Administration) Act and Plea Negotiation and Agreements Act provide and allow for this kind of consultation. This is an important aspect of the sentencing process to allow victims and/or relatives to have their concerns taken into account,” he said in the media release.

But president of the Advocates’ Association of Jamaica, attorney-at-law Leonard Green, said while the minister’s view may have been personal, it would have served him better, as the justice minister, to withhold his view.

“I think members of the public are at liberty to hold whatever view that they want to hold, but certainly in his capacity as minister it can be seen to be inappropriate in circumstances where the judges would have exercised their discretion and imposed a sentence that they would have deemed appropriate,” Green said.

Additionally, he said the judge would have taken the guilty plea into account.

“I am a little concerned that Mr Chuck would have expressed his personal opinion in that way in light of the fact that the judge would have heard all the evidence and all the submissions,” he noted.

Furthermore, Green said it must be noted that Chuck’s comment can have the effect of undermining the judiciary.

Noting that the pendulum of justice swings both ways, former prosecutor Kemoy McEkron expressed that the minister may have overstepped his powers.

“I am concerned that once again a member of the legislature has overreached its role of a separate and equal branch of Government that is the judiciary, despite the separation of power which is fundamental to the rule of law in our democracy,” he said.

McEkron further emphasised that the court, informed with all the relevant facts and circumstances, is best called upon to balance the interest of parties.

“As part of the sentencing process as I know it, it is the practice for a social enquiry report to be produced before any sentence. This report considers the impact and opinion of not only the victims, but that of the community as well as relevant information pertaining to the accused person,” he added.

Victims impact statements are also now emerging in some courts, he said, while pointing out that, “ultimately it is the purview of the court applying the relevant laws and exercising its discretion where one exists that passes appropriate sentence.

“I find it curious that after years of backlogs and some improvement in the justice system -- to a point where guilty pleas are encouraged and relevant discounts applied -- that we seem to be saying the maximum penalty should be applied in most cases,” McEkron added.

A retired judge, who requested anonymity, said: “Judges hear cases and they base their ruling on the facts before them as best as they can and they take into account all the factors. People disagree with sentences, hopefully, the judge can justify when he is asked.”

Meanwhile, Petreta Gabbidon, who represented Bryan, said the judge had considered all the relevant materials including her client’s social enquiry report, his antecedent report and the victim impact statement.

“The court was very detailed as it relates to the sentence. The defence is confident in the justice system and accepts the court’s decision,” she said.