Victims’ families still looking for justice

– a layman’s opinion

Dear Editor,
For many years, some extremely horrible and highly questionable judgements have been handed down by Guyana’s judicial system. Many victims and their families still cry out for a lack of justice.
Take, for example, the sentence handed down by Justice Simone Morris-Ramlall four months ago and published in the local newspaper, when Kurt Erskine, the killer, left his place of residence on July 05, 2015, armed himself with a gun, and travelled miles and shot Ganesh Ramlall (Boyo) to death at La Jalousie, West Coast Demerara. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, and received 15 years in a most bizarre decision. The City Mall owner was shot eight times!
Faizal Bacchus, the lookout/ informer, was freed (sentenced to time served) after pleading to the lesser count of manslaughter, when this was a clear-cut case of conspiracy to premeditated murder! Lenox Roberts, the third person charged in the murder, received a similar slap on the wrist in what is a clear case of a conspiracy to commit murder.
In legal terms, these men possessed a guilty mind – mens rea, which refers to criminal intent – therefore, sentencing should be in accordance with this factor. Thus, a crime committed purposefully and knowingly should carry a more severe punishment than if the offender acted recklessly or negligently.
There are abundant cases of haphazard sentencing; however, the following examples would suffice:
In February 2020, Sunildate Balack admitted that between September 6, 2016 and March 31, 2017, at Mibicuri North, Black Bush Polder, he killed his wife Lilwantie Balack, 39, of the same address.
After he had reported that she had left the country, the woman’s remains were found buried behind the couple’s home. In what has become horribly commonplace, he pleaded to the lesser count of manslaughter, and was sentenced to 21 years.
In sentencing the man, the judge said that in taking consideration of all the circumstances, she found that a sentence of 35 years was appropriate. However, she said on account of his guilty plea, 11 years would be deducted, and another three years were discounted on account of the time the convict had spent on remand.
And in 2018, a judge sentenced a Rose Hall, Corentyne man, Desmond Gordon, to ten years in prison after he pleaded guilty to the lesser count of manslaughter in the chopping death of his common law wife Bhagmattie Etwaroo, 50, in May, 2016.
The case of the murder of Abdool Ameer Subrati, 44, a driver with the Demerara Harbour Bridge and father of two, who was fatally shot by bandits in 2016 when they stormed a house at Herstelling, East Bank Demerara, puts the Judiciary on trial.
Devon Chacon, 22, murdered Subrati during the furtherance of a robbery.
Police had said that two men, including a tenant at the Herstelling property, were picked out as being involved in the attack. The family of the dead man was reported in the local media as saying that he was shot while the men were firing wildly during the robbery.
The accused was sentenced to 5 years in 2021 — to time served.

Leyland Chitlall