By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
BEFORE dismissing the appeal of a paedophile who challenged his 39-month jail term for having sex with an 11-year-old girl, Court of Appeal judges told the man his actions were “extremely serious and egregious”.
That said, Justices Anita Allen, Stanley John and Neville Adderley rejected the appeal of Alexander McPhee and affirmed the sentence handed down by Justice Vera Watkins in May of last year.
McPhee was unanimously convicted of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor in December 2011.
According to the testimony of the victim, the abuse took place every night for a seven-month period between July 2006 and February 2007.
Law enforcement officers were notified when the matter was reported on February 21, 2007 by the girl’s mother and grandmother.
McPhee was sentenced to seven years in prison in May 2012.
However, Justice Vera Watkins, who presided over the matter, subtracted the time that McPhee had spent in custody on remand, resulting in his prison term being reduced to a little more than three years.
Last October, McPhee asked the Court of Appeal for assistance in getting him an attorney to mount a case against his sentence.
The request was granted and Geofrrey Farquharson was appointed to represent him.
In yesterday’s proceedings, Mr Farquharson sought leave to withdraw his services, saying his client had indicated that he did not really need a lawyer.
Justice Allen said she was not minded to grant him leave, because “We’re here to deal with justice”.
The attorney challenged this, saying the wishes of the appellant must be heeded.
In response, Justice Allen chastised him for not bringing the matter to their attention months ago when he was appointed.
“We’re here about serious business, Mr Farquharson. We’re not here to play games,” she said.
When the judges asked McPhee his position, he said he still needed representation and had no issues with Mr Farquharson.
The attorney noted that his client could not seem to make up his mind as he had said something totally different in October of last year.
Justice Allen said she would not grant him leave to withdraw.
“Is that fair to Mr McPhee, milords?” the attorney asked.
“Is that fair to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, what you are doing? Remember that justice is a two-way street,” the court president responded.
Justice John supported her sentiments, adding that it would have been common courtesy to inform the court ahead of time if the attorney wanted to withdraw, so a replacement could be found.
Mr Farquharson continued as instructed and said his client was seeking a lesser sentence.
“Why is he saying that is harsh?” the court president asked both the attorney and the appellant.
Mr Farquharson said his client believed the sentence should reflect actual prison time, but the judges quickly clarified that the prison’s policy of eight months being equal to a calendar year had no bearing on the court’s sentences.
Justice Allen said that if McPhee displayed good behaviour throughout his incarceration, the prison has the discretion to shave off four months from each year.
Taking into account his time behind bars since conviction, the court noted that he essentially had only a little more than a year left if the prison chooses this course of action.
Mr Farquharson questioned whether the maximum penalty should have been given to his client, considering that there were no aggravating circumstances and his client had never been previously convicted of a similar charge.
“Are you serious, Mr Farquharson?” Justice Allen asked.
“Yes, milords,” he answered.
The judges countered that the identity of the victim in this case was an aggravating circumstance.
“Can you think of a worse thing to do?” the president asked.
“What sentence do you think should’ve been imposed?” Justice John asked the attorney.
The attorney said three to four years and time spent.
“So you just pat him on the back and send him home?” the president asked.
“I don’t think it’s a pat on the back” the attorney responded.
Mr Farquharson referenced the Privy Council’s ruling in the Maxo Tido case that maximum penalties should be handed out only in situations judged to be the “worst of the worst”.
The judges said they believe this does not apply.
The attorney pointed out that his client had not brought friends to join in the abuse. That, he said, could be considered egregious.
“Every night for six months? Its very egregious to me,” the appellate court president answered.
Prosecutor Garvin Gaskin submitted that the seven year sentence was proportionate in the circumstances, and noted that the court did reduce that sentence by taking into account the time on remand.
After a short recess, the judges returned to court and dismissed the appeal and affirmed McPhee’s sentence.