By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A MAN who killed his three-year-old daughter and hid her dismembered body had his hopes for an early prison release dashed by a Supreme Court judge yesterday.
Stephen Williams appeared before Senior Justice Stephen Isaacs for a ruling on a constitutional motion advanced by his lawyer Sonia Timothy concerning the need for his 25-year sentence for manslaughter imposed by the Court of Appeal to be revisited on the basis of an alleged procedural error during his initial hearing.
Williams originally faced a murder charge in relation to the death of his child, Stevanna Williams.
He pleaded guilty to manslaughter in February 2002 and was sentenced to 18 years in prison on April 4, 2002.
However, the appellate court increased the sentence to 25 years on an appeal by the Crown.
At a hearing in April, Ms Timothy argued that the court was not aware of all the mitigating factors in Williams’ case because it did not have the benefit of a probation report.
Prosecutor Eucal Bonaby said the application amounted to an abuse of process, as there was adequate means of redress available to the applicant in an appeal to the Privy Council.
Yesterday, in his written judgment, Senior Justice Isaacs noted: “There is no statutory requirement that the court considers a probation report.
“Had one been ordered to be produced, and the order was not complied with, the complaint that there was no proper sentencing hearing would carry some weight, but there is no argument nor evidence that a court order to produce a probation report was made or was breached.”
Speaking to the Crown’s response on the application, the judge said: “If that avenue is beyond the wherewithal of the applicant, or if such an appeal were successful and would result in an order for a rehearing at the Supreme Court, I see no reason not to hear the application and dispose of it.
“Any other approach would add layers to the process and could likely deny the applicant’s access to the court.”
This was the only concession granted to Williams in the court’s judgment, however, as the judge further went on to state: “There is no breach of Article 19 of the Constitution which protects the right to personal liberty as the applicant has been convicted of a crime and sentenced by a court.”
“With regard to the right to a fair hearing under Article 20, the thrust of the instant application is that the lack of a probation report at the sentencing at the Court of Appeal is unfair. There is no submission that counsel did not address the court at the hearing at the Supreme Court or at the Court of Appeal. Indeed, there was a psychiatric report and antecedents presented at the sentencing at both levels.”
The judge noted that what transpired in the appellate court could be seen in the first three paragraphs of that court’s judgment which he highlighted in his own ruling.
“The facts and circumstances surrounding the death of Stevanna Williams are both distressing and appalling. Stevanna was a three-year-old child of the accused, and in July 2000, the mother went to work and left the accused in charge of that child and her elder brother. As with children, something mischievous appears to have happened between the two children and he (Williams) rebuked the elder child.
“And, according to him – in a confession statement – as he attempted to chastise the child, she struck her head on a table and fell on a concrete floor. He said the child looked as though (she) was gasping and he placed the child somewhere else, opened a screen door, no doubt in the hope of getting air in, and very shortly after, according to him, the child died. He says that he attempted twice to call an ambulance but for some reason, he was unable to do so and bewildered by the horrifying nature of what had happened, he placed the child in a bag and hid the child in some bushes waiting for nightfall.”
“When night came, he spirited the body of the child away to some wasteland somewhere nearby, and in a mindless act, an act that one can describe as the act only of a demented mind, he began to dismember the child’s lifeless body, first an arm, then another arm, then a leg, then another leg, and then decapitated the child and then severed the torso and then cut the head into pieces.”
“It would not be easy to find the right epithets to describe so savage and cruel the conduct of a father to his own child,” the appellate court stated at the time.
Senior Justice Isaacs noted that these facts and other circumstances were considered by the appellate court and led it to increase his initial 18 years sentence by seven years. “And in all of the circumstances, this application is dismissed,” Senior Justice Isaacs concluded.
Other grounds Williams had used to justify the constitutional motion were that he was remorseful for the offence, had utilised his time in prison by learning a trade and various programmes and had been in prison for 13 years. The Supreme Court upheld Williams’ 25 year sentence.