MP Rolando Brison holds up “The Daily Herald” issue which featured the article.
PHILIPSBURG--Members of Parliament (MPs) last week expressed outrage over what they saw as the paltry sentence meted down to a 75-year-old man who received a suspended sentence for sexually assaulting a girl under thirteen years old. The man C.M.B. Sr. received a suspended fifteen-month prison sentence on three years’ probation for the crime.
“I cringed as I heard the story,” United Democrats (UD) MP Sarah Wescot-Williams said in commenting about the matter during a meeting of Parliament’s Permanent Committee for Constitutional Affairs and Decolonisation (CCAD.
“We have to get more serious and aggressive when it comes to these matters,” said National Alliance (NA) MP George Pantophlet.
United Democrats (UD) MP Rolando Brison called the matter “a terrible situation” and referred to the verdict as “selective justice.”
Independent MP Christophe Emmanuel was the first to raise the issue during the notifications segment of the meeting. Emmanuel, who read an entire article on the case and the verdict as had been published on the front page of The Daily Herald, expressed hope that groups concerned with abuse in the community would read the article and say something about it.
Emmanuel felt it was not acceptable that the suspect got off with no punishment for his acts, particularly given that when he had been locked up, his cell mate, whom he said had one foot and had been a dialysis patient, had been incarcerated for “sexually assaulting a little girl.”
Pantophlet said his issue is with the manner in which the Dutch apply the laws when it comes to certain crimes.
“We have to get more serious and aggressive when it comes to these matters, because 15 months suspension … . What kind of psychological effect has this had on this child and it goes on for years into adulthood. I hope they will be willing to pay for treatment and she goes and get some type of psychological evaluation because she will need that,” Pantophlet said in referring to assistance the victim of the crime may need.
“I agree with our colleague. We have to look closer at our criminal procedure code and ensure that these kinds of acts are punishable – not by suspension – but they have to be executed to the person no matter the age. If you do the crime you have to do the time,” Pantophlet contended.
Brison said this sort of selective justice that occurs in St. Maarten comes to the forefront every time a situation like this is seen. “It kind of reminds me of a conversation that I had with former MP [Tamara] Leonard who had an initiative law that she didn’t get to complete, but that was geared towards two things: raising in the penal code this punishment to actually 15 years is what she had proposed and also a sex offenders’ registry,” said Brison adding that St. Maarten does not have a sex offenders’ registry and the public should be aware of who these offenders are.
He was appalled that the offender was considered as a candidate for “the privilege” of electronic monitoring. “The selective justice that we have is definitely a concern,” said Brison. As it relates to the criminal procedure code, Brison said an update should be requested from the Minister of Justice and a factual timeline or explanation of the work that has been done by Parliament’s Justice Committee and the Parliament of St. Maarten related to the criminal procedure code should be done.
Wescot-Williams said that during the installation of a judge recently several remarks were made regarding varying aspects of the country’s justice system, including the criminal procedure code. She stressed that Parliament as a body should give a very clear picture where that entire matter stands as it relates to the criminal procedure code.
The girl who was sexually abused is a direct relative of the offender B.’s wife and the sexual assault had taken place multiple times over a period of two years. The girl was between 10 and 12 years old at the time. B. and his wife regularly baby-sat the victim and her siblings. Their home only had one bedroom and when the children came over, B. would sleep on the same bed with them while his wife slept on the floor.
In this case, it was not unusual for the victim and B. to be alone together in the bedroom. This was the case on the first night that he sexually assaulted her.
The victim told police that she had been on her tablet that night when B. put his arm around her. He asked if she loved him and said he would always be there to protect her. Before he kissed her, he said that she would always be his “baby girl.” He then took her shirt off and touched her breasts with his hands and mouth. He also took her hand and put it down his pants, she told police. She also said he put one of his hands on her genitalia and tried to insert a finger into her vagina. At this moment, he stopped because he heard someone walking in the corridor near the room.
He then told her not to tell anyone about what happened because he would be sent to prison, and that he could not survive in Point Blanche because he was old and sick. “What would your father think if he knew what you did?” was also one of his threats, she told police.
The prosecutor considered the charge proven, but said coming up with a fitting punishment was difficult in this case. Usually, this kind of crime is punishable by sending offenders to prison for 12 months. However, this is not an appropriate sentence for B., said the prosecutor.
For one, the defendant is a dialysis patient and must go treatment three times a week. However, the prosecutor referenced a report from the Probation Office which said B. is capable of performing “light tasks” if he is sentenced to community service. With this in mind, the prosecutor demanded a suspended sentence of 12 months in prison on two years’ probation. He also requested that the Court impose a six-month house arrest sentence with electronic surveillance, 200 hours of community service and regular meetings with a probation officer.
In her verdict, the judge found B. guilty of sexual assault, but had the same difficulty as the prosecutor in determining an appropriate sentence.
She told B. that he would have been sent to prison if he were a younger man, but this is not a suitable punishment given his age. Because he is a dialysis patient and often resting at home, she also ruled that house arrest with electronic surveillance and community service was unsuitable.
Without other feasible options, the judge imposed a suspended prison sentence of 15 months on three years’ probation. She said she had gone higher than the prosecutor’s demand to emphasise the seriousness of the crime.
A suspended sentence means that B. will not have to go to prison unless he commits another crime during the probationary period. If he does commit another crime, he will be forced to sit 15 months in detention.