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Single father thanks God for Father’s Day gift of freedom

Single father thanks God for Father’s Day gift of freedom
CASMORE HEPBURN raises his hands heavenward saying “Thank God for Jesus… God knows I love my child. Tek very best care of him. Thank you Lord, thank you father

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A SINGLE FATHER of a four-year-old child is thanking God after the court did not imprison him for leaving the minor unattended.

“…You have to try to get yourself in order.You have been caring for the child since the child was one and a half and you have been doing okay, but you cannot allow these situations to reoccur,” Chief Magistrate, Rechanne Browne told Casmore Hepburn at the Serious Offences Court (SOC) on Monday, June 13.

“The child wasn’t injured or anything on this occasion but we do not know what could happen on a next,” she stated, asking him to ease up on the alcohol and to rely on his relatives more.

Last week Wednesday the police charged Hepburn that, on June 5 at Lower Questelles he, without lawful excuse, failed in his duty to provide the necessities of life for his son.

The arresting officer, Corporal 45 Forde, knows the 39 year old defendant of Lower Questelles, very well.

According to the police, the father and son live in a two bedroom unfinished downstairs.

Forde has observed that the father takes the child with him to a nearby rum shop and gambles into the early morning.

The Corporal apparently had cause to warn the father when he met him and the child at the said shop at 5:00 a.m sleeping on two bar chairs. The officer had to take them both home on that occasion because the father was apparently too intoxicated to carry the child.

On June 5, at 9:00 p.m, an unknown caller telephoned the station to report that the defendant had locked his son in the house and gone to a street jump up.

When the police went to the residence they found it hooked from the outside. Inside they were met with darkness and the four year old was found in a bedroom face down on the bed.The child jumped off the bed, crying and saying, “Daddy gone town and left me alone home.”

Forde took the child and some of his clothes to the Questelles police station where he contacted the Child Protection Unit. At 9:55 p.m the defendant arrived at the Questelles police station, stating that he went to buy cigarettes at a nearby shop and when he returned he learned the police had taken his son.

The police detected alcohol on Hepburn’s breath and noticed that he couldn’t stand without support. The child was taken into the care of the Salvation Army while the father was informed that charges would be laid against him.

A few days later, on June 8, Hepburn went to the station as requested, and was interviewed and charged. He pleaded guilty before the court on June 9.

An officer from the Child Protection Unit who appeared in court on June 13, told the Court that a report could not be prepared but said that they had spoken with the child’s mother. The mother had explained that she was going to give up the child for adoption when he was about 18 months old because she was financially unable to take care of him, but the father had taken the child. The mother is unemployed.

There are several persons with links to the child. The youngster was sufficiently articulate to answer questions about his school, his age, and where his father lives.

Laywer, Duane Daniel appeared for Hepburn on Monday and mitigated for him.

He noted that in the police prepared facts, the prelude before the events of June 5, “technically is prejudicial based on some of the elements that have been raised.”

The magistrate indicated that the court is concerned with the isolated facts of the offence.

The lawyer also noted that there is a statement from his client wherein it is said that the child was already asleep when he went to purchase cigarettes.

“…What the facts do not include is that this house that he lives in, he lives in the downstairs with his child but upstairs his mother and his sister live,” the lawyer revealed. He said that he inquired as to whether there is a staircase for accessibility but was told that it is an external staircase.

Further while it was said that the child was found in the dark, the counsel said, “my instructions are that there is no electricity in the downstairs.”

“Now what is also interesting is that the facts made mention to hearsay evidence in relation to him having gone to town from Questelles…”, Daniel said, but his instructions were that his client had not gone to town.

The attorney reasoned that the police received a call at around 9:00 p.m informing about the child, and “the facts also state that by 9:55 p.m he was already in the station.”

He said this implies that the father would have returned home within a short time and having heard the police had come then made his way to the station.

Hepburn also apparently informed his neighbour where he was going.

“While he has entered a plea of guilty, because he did leave the child, there are severe mitigating circumstances to say that he didn’t leave the child completely unattended and without recourse to assistance if needed, and that at the time that he left, the child had already gone to sleep, and it was his intention to only be away for a short period of time,”the lawyer also said.

Hepburn is a 39-year-old construction worker who had no previous relevant criminal convictions.

“…He is extremely contrite, he is saying that he loves his son,” Daniel informed the court.

Further, “he is a single parent trying his best to raise his child.”

The magistrate inquired into the relationship between the father and his family as it didn’t appear to be significant.

Daniel explained that the upstairs was already locked up which is why Hepburn opted to tell the neighbour.

“As a matter of fact the sister is outside right now and very concerned,” he said.

“Well wake up your sister,” Browne told Hepburn.

The lawyer reiterated that the sister is very concerned.

“Well she should have been concerned on the night,” the magistrate said.

Daniel explained that she was unaware.

“Exhibit the concern all the time. Don’t come now when you’re thinking he’s on the cusp of Her Majesty’s Pleasure to exhibit the concern. So that’s the point. So when you come with your concern now, I don’t like it. Family members should be concerned all the time, not because you think he’s going to jail on a Sunday; it’s a little child,” Browne stressed.

The lawyer asked in all the circumstances that the father be reprimanded, or at least charged a fine.

Prosecutor, Station Sergeant Renrick Cato was given a chance to respond. He submitted that Hepburn hadn’t told the court before that he told a neighbour.

Cato also reminded that there was a Carnival jump up in Campden Park on the night and the defendant had turned up to the station intoxicated.

He questioned, why would “…an adult, a concerned father choose to leave his child, a 4-year-old child, at home by himself no current, to go and buy cigarette?”

Adding, “That doesn’t make any sense to me.”

To show how serious the offence is, the law has allocated a maximum of five years in prison, he said.

The prosecutor wanted the court to impose a sentence in line with the seriousness of the transgression.

But Daniel pointed out that the five year sentence is for extreme cases.

There were further interchanges between the prosecutor and Daniel.

In delivering her sentence Browne said, “It was clear from all accounts that this is serious. We have to be cognizant of our responsibilities as parents and the fact we are their caregivers. They didn’t ask to be here. We are to ensure their best interests at all times.”

Taking on board the child protection officer’s report that “the child is well cared for, articulate, and meeting all that is necessary for a child of his age, a 4-yearold child,” the magistrate opted for a non-custodial sentence.

“You are not the best father, that is for sure. I want you to note that.Your actions have exhibited that you’re not the best father but neither are you the worst father,” the judicial officer told Hepburn.

There were aggravating factors, including the child’s tender age, his fright when found, and being left in the darkness. There were no mitigating factors of the offence.

However, for the offender, there were no aggravating factors, and he was extremely remorseful and contrite, with no previous record.

Money was added and subtracted based on these circumstances until the court arrived at a fine of $1500 to be paid by September 1, 2022. If Hepburn fails to pay he will spend six months in prison.

After this the defence lawyer explained that he had spoken to the family and told them that Hepburn will have to rely on them more.

Outside the court, the father was teary eyed.

“Thank God for Jesus… God knows I love my child. Tek very best care of him. Thank you Lord, thank you father,” he said, going down on his knees at one point and raising his hands heavenward.

“I take the very best care of my child, since a year and a month,” he said.