Appeal dismissed
Court upholds conviction, sentences of trio who tricked, robbed taxi driver

TWO St Catherine men who, along with a then pregnant 17-year-old, tricked and robbed a taxi driver during a supposed hire had their appeals against sentences and convictions dismissed by the Appeal Court which said it found "no merit in any of the grounds raised" by attorneys for the trio.

In the case, which was tried in 2019, although the robbery occurred in 2008, the three were convicted in the High Court Division of the Gun Court for the offences of illegal possession of firearm and robbery with aggravation. The two males were sentenced to nine years and seven months' imprisonment for the offence of illegal possession of firearm and 11 years and seven months for robbery with aggravation.

The female was sentenced to nine years and three months' imprisonment for illegal possession of firearm, and 11 years and three months' imprisonment for robbery with aggravation. The appeals were filed in 2021.

The Crown had told the court that the complainant testified that he was held up and robbed at gunpoint of his Toyota Corolla motor car by the three appellants and another man.

His evidence was that in July 2008 he was working as a taxi driver with a particular cab company when he received a phone call from a female who requested a charter for 11:45 pm from Debbie Avenue, Edgewater in Portmore, St Catherine.

He said on arrival at the location that night, he saw a female standing at the side of the road with three males. The female waved at him, he stopped his vehicle, unlocked the doors and the female and three males entered the car. The female sat in the front passenger seat, and the three males sat at the back. The female then told him that they were going to Norbrook in St Andrew.

They agreed on $2,000 for the fare, and he drove off. He said on getting to Norbrook Drive 30 minutes later he slowed down to negotiate a ditch in the road when he felt a blow to the back of his head, and then saw a hand with a black gun right beside his face. He said his vehicle was brought to a halt by the female who pulled up his emergency brake and proceeded to "pop down the speed sensor".

One of the males then said, "Hey boy, mi want dah car yah." The three men then alighted from the vehicle, one of them pulled him out and put him face down on the ground. They then deliberated on what to do with him. Among the words the complainant heard the men say was, "Don't buss it [name called]". Upon hearing this, the complainant rolled over to the edge of the road and into a culvert. He then heard the doors of the car being closed and the vehicle driving off. He subsequently got to the Constant Spring Police Station where he filed a report.

Within an hour the police returned with two of the males and the female. The three, in statements taken by the police, denied being associates.

In the ruling which was handed down earlier this month, the Appeal Court judges said the various issues raised on the appeal, in respect of each appellant, had failed as the evidence of the complainant pointed "clearly to a pre-planned joint enterprise carried out by the appellants and another man, with the primary objective of robbing the complainant of his Toyota Corolla motor car". The judges further said they found no reason to disturb the sentences imposed as they could not be said to have been manifestly excessive.

"Furthermore, no evidence having been put forward by the appellants to account for the delay in the hearing of the trial, it could not be determined by this court that there was a breach of the appellants' constitutional rights to a fair trial within a reasonable time," the court stated in dismissing the appeals and affirming the sentences and convictions.

Attorneys for the female had argued that the sentencing judge erred in law in "almost totally ignoring the female appellant's submissions on mitigating factors such as the fact that she was deprived of a fair trial within a reasonable time" as the case had lingered in the justice system for 11 years before trial and for 11 years the appellant had to report to the police three times per week.

They further pointed to the fact that she spent about six months in custody and lost a child as a result and subsequently went into depression. At the time of the sentencing, she was the mother of two girls, ages two and seven attorneys said.

The Appeal Court, in affirming the sentences and convictions, said they were considered as having commenced in September 2019, the date they were originally handed down.

Alicia Dunkley-Willis

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