Man, 55, jailed for sexually assaulting girl, 9

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Convicted: Morris Fernandes

Morris Fernandes, 55, has been sentenced to seven years in prison after he was on Tuesday morning convicted of sexually assaulting a nine-year-old girl.
The decision was handed down after Fernandes appeared at the Sexual Offences Court of the Georgetown High Court, before Justice Jo-Ann Barlow and a 12-member jury.
According to the indictment, between October 1 and 31, 2016, in the County of Demerara, the defendant engaged in sexual activity with a girl child under age 16.
Two weeks ago the jury found him guilty of the crime with a majority verdict of 10 to two.
During Tuesday’s appearance, a report from Probation Officer Shaneila Wilson revealed that Fernandes financially assisted the child with her education which resulted in her performance improvement at school.

However, according to the report, during the period of the alleged assault, the head teacher of the virtual complainant’s primary school observed the child’s withdrawal from her peers.

The child’s impact statement outlined that after she was assaulted by the accused, she felt confused and her grades declined.

“Before it happened, I was all happy and alive. I studied for all my tests until they finally paid off in Grade Four. I was very proud of my ability to do such things. I lived on until [the accused] interrupted. I felt so horrible and terrified, my grades went down…. I had sleepless nights stressing about what I had to do to bring my grades up again,” the statement read.

Following the observance of ‘Child Abuse Week’ at her school, she was able to reveal what happened to her but her mother did not readily believe her story.
Seeking to protect her mother’s feelings, the child recanted her complaints made to the authorities, claiming “I lied”, but after being pressed further on another occasion she indicated that the act did indeed occur.

Fernandes, in relation to the same virtual complainant, was convicted by the court with an 18-months sentence in relation to a similar offence.

In handing down her sentence, Justice Barlow told the court that although Fernandes is convicted for the lesser offence of sexual assault which carries a maximum of 10 years; this does not take away from the gravity of the act.

“It is sad because you who know better, failed to do better, and in doing that you failed a child, a very young child, and circumstances such as those are aggravating circumstances,” Barlow said.

The judge began with a sentence of eight years but deducted one-year on the account that Fernandes assisted the virtual complainant with her education.
She added that Fernandes should be exposed to treatment and counselling programmes for sexual offenders, and advised that further support be provided to the young girl.
The State was represented by Abigail Gibbs and Narissa Leander while the defence lawyer was Tiffany Jeffrey.