THE absence of any "empathy or sympathy" on the part of the Westmoreland teen who used his knowledge of his nine-year-old neighbour and schoolmate's love of fruits to lure, rape, bugger and smother her to death in 2018 signalled that he had such a "deep problem" that he could not be sentenced to less than life behind bars, Supreme Court Judge Justice Courtney Daye said on Friday.
The judge, in sentencing the youth to life in prison with eligibility for parole after 23 years and nine months for the murder, told him, "You allowed yourself to be overcome by this abnormal — for your age — sexual passion to an innocent young child and it is of the highest order, and it has to get a sentence that reflects that."
For the offence of rape, the judge sentenced the convicted teen to 18 years, and for the buggery charge the maximum of 10 years. The prison terms will, however, run concurrently, making it so that he will spend the longest of the three sentences — 23 years and nine months.
Justice Daye, who credited the teen for the time spent in custody and the fact that residents of his community had indicated he was not of a violent nature, said despite those discounts the aggravating factors were such that the sentence he recommended still ended up at 23 years and nine months. Those aggravating factors included his "insensitive conduct" as he pretended not to know where the child was or what had become of her when asked, and had denied being in her presence.
Furthermore, according to the social enquiry report, up to the time he was convicted this year, the defendant remained reserved and uncooperative in earlier interviews. According to that report, he only opened up after he was convicted in July this year, telling interviewers that he had been abandoned by his family and had decided to put his "heart in a safe place" as it was just him "against the world". According to the report, he gave his account of the incident fluently and was implacable as he maintained that he was "not fearful of a long prison sentence".
"Your conduct is a worrying aspect; you probably should get more than the two years [added to the 25-year starting point for that aggravating factor]," the judge said.
He said the fact that the youngster showed "no empathy or sympathy" indicated that he had "a deep problem".
"You have to get extra years for that," the judge said while noting the report of the mental health experts which said that a person who shows no empathy for wrong actions is "susceptible to recidivism".
The judge, who pointed out that if the accused were an adult the starting point for the court, based on the law, would be 35 years, said the sentence arrived at by the court is "both proportionate and deterrent" and would give the teen much-needed time to reflect.
He also expressed scepticism at the finding that the accused was "illiterate", noting his use of words during the interview with an aftercare probation officer in which he described himself as suffering from depression.
The report also said that the accused was reading way below his grade level, with conflicting accounts as to whether he was in grade six or grade eight.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn, KC, proposed life imprisonment for the murder and 20 years behind bars before eligibility for parole. She also proposed 15 years for the rape and seven years for the buggery, and suggested that the sentences run concurrently.
Justice Daye, however, said he went higher than the 20 years suggested by the DPP for the murder because of the "gravity" of the offence, the age of the victim, and the fact that the defendant showed no remorse. He, however, endorsed the recommendations of the psychiatrist that he should receive psychotherapy as part of his childcare plan while in custody.
On Friday the DPP was at pains to point out that the accused was much heavier than the 50 pounds of the diminutive girl who was just over four feet tall. The lead prosecutor went on to describe as "egregious" the lacerations in the anus and vagina of the child while dismissing the account of the accused that he had only entered her anally under duress because of the presence of two adult males who instigated the attack.
According to the youngster, out of fear for his life and under threat from a gun aimed at him by one of the men, who also raped the child, he penetrated her but was uncertain of where his phallus went. The DPP, in rubbishing that account, described it as "a defence of convenience", adding that the damage to the child was such that only an erect male member could have inflicted it.
She argued that if he had been in fear he would not have been able to get an erection and cause that much damage to the deceased.
"It would have been impossible; his penis would have been flaccid," she said, adding that "the accused would have been aware of the agony of the deceased, yet he continued".
"She was then strangled," the DPP pointed out, noting the pathologist report which said the little girl suffered two to three minutes before dying.
"She suffered at the hands of her neighbour, her friend, someone she viewed as somebody she could trust," the DPP stated, adding that despite the mountain of evidentiary material the defendant opted to maintain his innocence.
Another aggravating factor, the DPP said, was that he "left her with her uniform above her chest, her legs spread-eagled, her small tights dangling from one ankle, her genitalia exposed to the elements, on her back in bushes and did not tell anyone [her whereabouts] even though he knew the community was searching for her".
On Friday the stocky youth sat in the dock abnormally still for the well over two hours sentencing exercise. His only movement when standing to be sentenced was to shift his weight from one leg to the next, his hands loosely crossed behind his back. Following the handing down of the sentence he turned, still stoic, walked to the entrance of the dock to be handcuffed and left the courtroom, exchanging a long glance with his father before being led outside.