By Gabriella Chapman
ROWLAND Sam Jr. was on Thursday sentenced to life in prison with eligibility of parole after serving a minimum of 20 years, for the rape of a child under the age of 16. At the time of the incident, he was 22 years old.
The sentence was handed down by Justice Priya Sewnarine-Beharry at the High Court. The prosecution’s case stated that in the month of January, 2015, a seven-year-old girl was left in the care of the accused while her mother was attending a wake at a nearby house. During the time the mother was away, the accused and the child were watching television after which, he took her to a room in the house and sexually assaulted her.
Two weeks ago, the accused was found guilty of the above mentioned act by a 12 member jury, but he continued to interject that he is innocent of most of what he is being accused of; admitting that he only used his finger on the child.
Sam’s attorney, Clyde Forde had requested a probation report be prepared for his client and same was read out in court on Tuesday before the sentencing. The probation report presented by Ministry of Social Protection Probation and Social Services Officer, Maloma Bristol, stated that Sam Jr. endured quite an unfortunate childhood.
It noted that his parents had separated due to his father being an alcoholic, leaving him alone with his mother. The split took a toll on his mother who became very abusive to him. This caused the child to move from relative to relative, the report stated. According to the report, at the tender age of six Sam was also molested by a family member and although relatives and the authorities were notified of the incident, nothing was done.
Sam, the report stated, was described by persons in his neighbourhood as a child who grew up introverted and reserved. This was as a result of the constant physical and verbal abuse he endured at the hands of his mother. His girlfriend said he was hard working and easy going. He dropped out of school at fourth form and is said to be semi-literate. In 2012 Rowland was charged for unlawful malicious wounding and served 18 months in prison and was said to be molested by another inmate while he was incarcerated.
In concluding the probation report, Bristol read that the accused is a product of a dysfunctional family and lacked role models in his life to pattern after. The unfortunate, traumatic experiences during his childhood, hindered his holistic development which could be deemed the cause of his irresponsible, life-wrecking actions.
Senior Counselor at Blossom Inc. Child Advocacy Centre, Nicola Foo read the impact statement of the victim before the court. The child expressed that she felt angry and scared and that what was done to her caused her to feel uncomfortable around men and distracted her in school, which resulted in poor grades. She wished that Sam be punished so that he will be unable harm other children in the same way.
Justice Sewnarine-Beharry then gave the accused the opportunity to speak before the court. Sam said: “I did not want to waste the court’s time but I said I wasn’t guilty because most of the things they said I did is not true… I am very sorry for what happened. I know what I did was wrong and I want to be punished, but I’m asking for a second chance to set it right with myself and my community.”
The accused said that over the years he has become a changed man, finding solace in his connection to God and his new found church. His lawyer reiterated that Sam has shown remorse and pleaded with the court to temper justice with mercy, given the circumstances.
State Prosecutor, Orinthia Schmidth however, reminded the court that the child was left in his care and he violated his position of trust, emphasising that a strong message ought to be sent to society to leave children alone and stop depriving them of the life they deserve.
After a 10-minute recess, Justice Sewnarine-Beharry returned to hand down the life sentence. The Judge stated that Sam was given eligibility of parole after serving 20 years, considering the fact that he apologised and acknowledged that what he did was wrong.
Also because his upbringing was unfortunate and unstable, which may have negatively influenced the person he became. In addition to the sentence, the Judge ordered that he receives counselling along with mental and psychological attention.