HAROLD Crooks, the former commandant of the Island Special Constabulary Force, was yesterday given a suspended sentence on sex charges and was immediately tasked by the court to spread the word that little girls are not to be abused or in any way disadvantaged.
The former commandant was sentenced to two years' imprisonment on two counts of indecent assault when he appeared in the Home Circuit Court, but the sentence was suspended for three years. This means if the 72-year-old Crooks commits, within the three years, a crime punishable by imprisonment he would also have to serve the two-year sentence if convicted.
Crooks was on July 4 convicted by a panel of seven jurors, but was acquitted of the more serious charge of carnal abuse.
The prosecution alleged that Crooks had sex with a teenage girl in 2009 and assaulted her a month before she turned 16.
But the former commandant denied the allegations, stating instead that the two had sex, but only after the girl turned 16, which is the age of consent. He was represented by attorneys Barry Frankson and Jodian Hammitt.
Yesterday, in handing down the sentence, Justice Bertram Morrison told Crooks that he had a moral obligation and responsibility to children. After suspending the sentence, Morrison told Crooks to go back to his community and spread the word that children are to be treated properly.
Morrison decided against imprisoning Crooks, in part, because of the character evidence given on his behalf by senior members of his community.
The suspended sentence was a big relief for Crooks who, after fleeing the island in March 2010 before he could be arrested, told the Jamaica Observer through attorney Vincent Wellesley that he would not be returning because he had no faith in the justice system.
"He said that he is innocent, but that he has no faith in the justice system and he is not coming back. He said he is an old man and that if he is convicted he will die in prison," Wellesley said then.
Crooks was arrested after jumping off a cruise ship in Ocho Rios, St Ann, when he returned to the island.