By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A JUDGE who sentenced a man to 18 years in prison for manslaughter yesterday lamented the increase in violent crimes involving men with little conflict resolution skills.
Justice Vera Watkins produced a written decision, partly read into the record, in the sentencing of 25-year-old Ovando Woodside concerning the July 3, 2011 death of Anva Thompson.
However, his sentence was reduced to just over 14 years, taking his time on remand into account.
While the judge acknowledged the convict’s early admission of guilt and expression of remorse for his actions on that day, she could not help but voice concern at the increasing rate of young men involved in violent crimes.
“There has been a steady increase of violent crimes in The Bahamas involving young men who lack the necessary skills in resolving conflicts and it is apparent that Woodside’s actions may have been a result of his inability or unwillingness to resolve conflicts with the deceased,” the judge said.
However, she did not think the matter warranted life imprisonment.
“I have taken into account the relevant provisions of the statute law with respect to sentencing,” the judge said in her ruling.
“I have given consideration to Woodside’s individual circumstances as presented in the probation report. I have also considered the gravity of the offence committed by Woodside, his character, the factors that might have influenced his conduct at the time of the killing and the possibility of reform and re-adaptation into society upon his release from prison.
“I have further considered the fact that Woodside has expressed remorse for his actions and empathy for the deceased,” the judge added.
“Having regard to all of the circumstances pertaining to this matter and for the reasons stated above, I am of the view that Woodside ought to be sentenced at the lowest end of the range set out in the case of AG vs Larry Raymond Jones,” the court ruled.
Woodside’s 18-year sentence, which was reduced to 14 years and four months because of his time on remand awaiting trial, will run from October 9, 2014, the date of conviction.
Before he was to stand trial for murder in connection with Thompson’s death, Woodside opted to plead guilty to the lesser charge, which the Crown accepted.
Woodside and Thompson were involved in a physical argument in the area of Windsor Lane and Market Street. Woodside picked up a knife that was on the ground and stabbed the victim several times in his body. Thompson died of his injuries at the scene and later the same day, Woodside turned himself in to police.
When interviewed by police, Woodside said he and the deceased had an ongoing feud and that during an argument two days earlier Thompson had stabbed him with a knife.
Thompson, he claimed, had also been in possession of a firearm moments before the stabbing and pointed the gun at him. It was during a game of dominoes, where he believed Thompson to still be armed, that he picked up a knife and stabbed Thompson.
In Justice Watkins’ written ruling on sentencing, she noted that Woodside has a number of mitigating factors in his favour, namely his lack of antecedents, his youth, gainful employment prior to the incident, his early admission of guilt and remorse for his actions.
The court also spoke highly of Woodside taking the initiative to improving his reading skills while on remand at prison.
“This is desirous of improving his educational skills so as to facilitate his re-entry into society,” the judge noted.
Notwithstanding that Woodside had been provoked in this case, Justice Watkins noted that “there has been a tragic loss of life” and that “manslaughter is a serious offence.”
Ian Cargill and Tai Pinder represented Woodside while Algernon Allen II represented the Crown.