Lawyers plead for fines instead of jail time for cops

DEFENCE lawyers representing the three police constables convicted of manslaughter in relation to the March 2012 shooting death of schoolgirl Vanessa Kirkland yesterday urged high court judge, Justice Carol Lawrence Beswick to impose a fine instead of a custodial sentence.

Attorneys Peter Champagnie, Nadine Guy and Oswest Senior -Smith, who are representing Andrewain Smith, 34, Durvin Hayles, 33, and Anna Kay Bailey, 27, during their extensive mitigation pleas in the Home Circuit Court chorused a desire for a fine, noting that the officers were executing their duties that night and that the sentencing guideline stipulates that a fine alone can be imposed as a penalty.

Additionally, Senior-Smith told the judge that she could impose a “weighty” fine that would very well require the offenders to seek help from their colleagues, which would send the message that the court hopes to convey.

At the same time, the attorneys told the judge that if she disagreed and wishes to impose a custodial sentence then she should abide by the sentencing guideline which stipulates that she starts at five years, considering the overwhelming mitigating factors would undoubtedly result in a lower sentence.

Guy and Champagnie also went further by asking the judge to consider granting their clients bail pending their appeals if she decides to give them a custodial sentence.

Senior-Smith, meanwhile, asked the judge to consider putting the sentence on hold, in that it does not take immediate effect, if she plans to impose a custodial sentence.

However, as a result of the attorneys’ request for the ancillary relief to be granted to their clients, the sentencing was postponed to Monday for completion in order for the prosecution to respond to the defence’s request.

The three accused police officers, who appeared utterly remorseful and dejected, in spite of the solid show of support which was demonstrated by a large numbers of colleagues and family members who filled the courtroom, were remanded.

The former Immaculate Conception High School 16-year-old student was killed on March 20, 2012 when members of a police team opened gunfire on a car in which she had been a passenger.

Six other occupants in the car were shot and injured.

During the trial, the defence lawyers maintained that their clients acted in self-defence after someone inside the car they were chasing fired at them. They were found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter on February 8.

The trial heard that the car that was being chased was involved in a robbery and that a phone that was reported stolen was recovered from that car along with an illegal weapon.

However, based on the conviction, Champagnie told the court yesterday that the jury accepted that the officers came under attack but said that the offence occurred because of poor judgement on the parts of the officers.

Additionally, he said the court has to look at the individuals’ action on that day, adding that his client had an impeccable record and that, while he is very apologetic, he maintained that he acted appropriately.

Champagnie also asked the judge to bear in mind that his client had a glowing community report and that members of his community had cried when they heard he had been taken into custody.

Guy, during her mitigation plea, said the case was one of the most “discomforting“ matters she had come across, given the circumstance which led to the untimely death of the teenage girl.

“It was clear throughout the matter the grief that the mother is experiencing and continues to experience,” she pointed out.

However, Guy said the court must note the mother’s remark that her daughter was at the wrong place at the wrong time.