Campbellville businessman jailed for 18 months for beating, threatening to shoot daughter
…“Women are not a ball to be tossed around” – Magistrate Weever
By Feona Morrison
Expressing that “women are not a ball to be tossed around”, and that the judicial system will not condone any form of abuse, Magistrate Rhondell Weever on Thursday imposed an 18-month prison sentence on an assault convict, 50-year-old businessman Devanand Singh.
The sentence came three weeks after she found the father of five, of Kanuku Street, Campbellville, Georgetown, guilty of assaulting and threatening to shoot his 26-year-old daughter.
The brutality, which was captured on CCTV footage, went viral on social media, and sparked widespread condemnation.
On the charges of inflicting actual bodily harm on his child, and threatening to shoot her, the defendant was jailed for 14 months and four months respectively. These jail terms will run concurrently, and, as such, he will only serve 14 months.
During her sentencing remarks, Magistrate Weever said that while she took note of Singh being a product of a dysfunctional family, he allowed his childhood to negatively impact him.
Singh told a probation officer that his father, who was an alcoholic, was physically and verbally abusive toward him. As a result of his father’s habits, he said, his mother ended their marriage.
The convict’s lawyer, Nigel Hughes, in a plea in mitigation, submitted that his client’s abusive behaviour towards his child was a result of poor knowledge. However, given Singh’s age, Magistrate Weever pointed out that he “should be well aware that such behaviour is unacceptable”. According to her, the businessman’s conduct was “reprehensible” and “distasteful”.
While reflecting on the evidence, she referred to the adage ‘a picture tells a thousand words’, and said that CCTV footage of the battery demonstrated more than a thousand words.
Magistrate Weever added that Singh treated his daughter like he was hitting a ball with a bat, while noting that he also “dropped-kick her” like he was in “mortal combat”. “No longer should we treat women as if they are a ball to be tossed,” Magistrate Weever asserted.
Hughes, while addressing the court, said his client’s behaviour was an “impulsive reaction” to his daughter’s inappropriate behaviour. In light of Singh’s daughter’s testimony: that he began abusing her at 16, and abuse reports against Singh by his past spouse, Magistrate Weever concluded that he has a history of behaving violently.
The lawyer described the incident between the father and daughter as “unfortunate and regrettable”, and called for them to be supported to repair their family.
The defence counsel urged the court to impose on Singh a suspended sentence, assuring that he would not behave like this again to his daughter or to anyone.
Hughes submitted, “He [Singh] is not a serial assaulter. I would urge the court to consider the imposition of a suspended sentence which would remind the defendant of the risk he faces if he commits any offence, in particular of this nature.”
He also highlighted that his client has no prior conviction, that he is remorseful and regrets what he has done, that he is the sole breadwinner of his family, and that he is a taxpaying businessman who employs many.
According to Hughes, the charge against his client was reduced from causing grievous bodily harm to causing actual bodily harm because of the nature of the injuries the victim received.
“The injuries were not grievous,” Hughes remarked. The counsel told the court that the young woman’s injuries tell the true story, and not the “dramatic video” in circulation. That video, Hughes noted, has caused Singh public embarrassment and has had a negative impact on his businesses.
During an interview with the probation officer, Singh’s daughter expressed that the traumatic experiences have caused her to suffer from anxiety. She also said that the incident between her and her father has affected her relationship with her brothers and sisters.
Singh’s daughter and her Attorney, Latchmie Rahamat, appeared in court virtually.
For his part, Police Prosecutor Kwasi Carmichael petitioned for a custodial sentence. And in so doing, he mentioned the prevalence of domestic violence in Guyana. Prosecutor Carmichael averred that this will serve as a deterrent to potential offenders, and will keep Singh away from his daughter, since he has the means to make good on his threats against her.
In the end, the Magistrate agreed with the prosecution that a jail sentence is a reasonable punishment for Singh’s crimes. The convict will likely appeal the Magistrate’s decision. The judicial officer has also directed psychosocial support for Singh and his child.
After he was found guilty, Singh offered his daughter $2 million as compensation, but she rejected the sum.
Singh, proprietor of “Brands2Go” and other businesses, was initially charged in April 2022. After pleaded not guilty to the charges, he was released on $400,000 bail. He committed the crimes sometime in March 2022.
At his first court appearance, a permanent restraining order was granted against him, compelling him to stay 1,000 feet away from his offspring. He was also ordered to give her her belongings.
Prior to Singh being charged, several videos had gone viral on social media, in particular Facebook, of him kicking and stomping his daughter. During an interview in another section of the media, his daughter had related that she had been abused by her father for over a decade, and that she had planned to escape from their family home while he was out of town.
After the video had hit social media, the businessman, while being interviewed by a social media commentator, had said the video was “not what it seems”. He did not deny that it was him in the video beating a woman in his Regent Street, Georgetown store in full view of his employees.
After Singh was arrested, Police ranks had gone to his home and seized his licensed 9mm pistol and a shotgun, as well as matching ammo. The items had been lodged at the Kitty Police Station.
Singh’s daughter has been receiving support from the Human Services and Social Security Ministry’s Survivour’s Advocate Programme.
Meanwhile, Human Services and Social Security Minister Dr Vindhya Persaud, in reacting to the video of the assault, had said the worst thing anyone can do is justify abuse and violence.
“No one deserves that, no matter what,” she had written in a Facebook post.