Hendrickson’s ‘unlawful carnal knowledge’ sentence cut in half

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Basseterre, St. Kitts – After an appeal during Monday’s Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal meeting, justices cut in half the 20-year sentence of a St. Kitts and Nevis man convicted in 2011 of unlawful carnal knowledge.

Troy Hendrickson, who was charged Feb. 29, 2009, with rape and unlawful carnal knowledge of a 12-year-old in Bourryeau Village was found guilty on Jan. 31 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The outcome for the rape charge was a hung jury.

Hendrickson’s lawyer, John Cato, indicated that they were appealing the conviction and 20-year sentence. He identified as his grounds of appeal the judge’s direction given to the jury and requested the Justices of Appeal examine a view to quash the conviction or give a significantly reduced sentence.

Cato argued that the judge confused the jury regarding the issue of corroboration.

He added that the judge’s pronouncements on the issue indicated that there was no corroboration, but he failed to appreciate discretion. Cato further argued direction was required on the unsubstantiated word of the complainants.

Cato stated that, from the beginning, the judge determined that there was corroboration.

Referencing Section 143 of the Evidence Act, Cato stated that where there is a jury, the court ought to have warned the jury that the evidence may be unreliable and give caution. He noted that no warning was given in the terms required.

The Justices of Appeal, however, disagreed and stated that the judge gave a direction “favourable” to his client. They stated that the judge directed it was dangerous of the jury to rely solely on the young girl’s testimony and it was separate from the corroboration issue. They further stated that it was misplaced and wrong to criticise the judge and said it was a clear case of one word against the other.

In arguing the 20-year sentence, Cato indicated that it was his client’s first conviction and felt the sentence was excessive. He stated that after a canvas of similar cases in the jurisdiction, he found five years was the average.

The justices argued that five years was the bench mark for a conviction of indecent assault and that the average for rape is about 10 years, but agreed 20 years was indeed excessive.

In delivering the verdict, they dismissed the appeal against conviction. They, however, cut in half the sentence to 10 years imprisonment, which may see him walk free later this year.