Appeal Court sends message about domestic violence
From the Courts
February 28, 2020

Appeal Court sends message about domestic violence

In upholding a 20-year-jail sentence against a Barrouallie man who ambushed and viciously chopped his former common law wife in 2013, the Justices of Appeal have noted that the court needed to send a clear message in relation to domestic violence.

At the time, prisoner Brennon Roberts, represented by attorney Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, was attempting to appeal the conviction and sentence he received from Justice Kathy-Ann Latchoo on February 16, 2015.

Latchoo had mandated that the then 41-year-old Roberts spend 20 years in prison for attempting to murder Prislet Francis, the mother of his 10-year-old daughter. The judge also imposed a sentence of 18 months incarceration for his breach of a family court protection order.

On Monday, February 24, the first day of the Court of Appeal sitting in St Vincent and the Grenadines(SVG), Justices of Appeal Davidson Kelvin Baptiste, Mario Michel and Paul Anthony Webster addressed their minds to the Roberts case.

Bacchus-Baptiste was in the process of making submissions that the sentence was excessive in the circumstances, when Justice of Appeal Baptiste stated it seemed that cases similar to that one were becoming more prevalent.

The court, he said, must send a strong message to those who conduct such violence against their wives, and girlfriends that the court would not condone such conduct. He also commented that domestic violence is becoming a serious problem in this jurisdiction and the court would be sending a “very wrong” message, if it accepted that the sentence had been excessive.

Justice Michel, in delivering the final decision, noted that they heard the valiant attempt of Bacchus-Baptiste to convince them that 20 years is manifestly excessive. However, he continued that the court could find no mitigating factors before the trial judge, and that they could find no basis upon which to disturb the ruling.

After this decision, the prisoner, who walked with a limp, headed back to the bench, before being escorted back to prison. On his way to the bench a seemingly dissatisfied woman seated in the courtroom attempted to speak to him, telling him to appeal again.

Previously, in December 2014, a jury convicted Roberts after a full trial prosecuted by crown counsel Karim Nelson.

Incidentally, the case was also the first in which someone was convicted after evidence via video was taken as permitted in the Interviewing of Suspects for Serious Crimes Act (No: 4 of 2012).
Roberts was found to have, on April 22, 2013, attacked Francis when she was on her way home at around 9 pm. He was hiding in the bushes behind a lamp post in Larley Road, Barrouallie, and when Francis spotted him, she tried to run, but fell down. Roberts started chopping her, and landed several chops to her head, back, and arm.

When SEARCHLIGHT spoke to Francis’ sister Ava Gabriel in 2013, Gabriel said that part of her sister’s right ear had been severed, and had to be re-attached. Francis’ left arm was said to be almost completely severed.

According to the sister, it had not been the first time that Roberts had been violent to Francis.

After the attack, the only thing that Francis had told the press was that “This is the second time he tried to kill me.”