By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A MAN was sentenced yesterday to eight years in prison for sexually assaulting a child entrusted to his care last year.
Clyde Bethel, 46, appeared before Justice Gregory Hilton facing between seven years and life in prison for his conviction on a count of unlawful sexual intercourse stemming from the assault of a 13-year-old girl on October 23, 2015.
The 13-year-old was a guest at the residence of the convict and his wife when the incident occurred.
“In exercising my discretion in sentencing, I must consider those factors which are both mitigating and aggravating about the offence and the offender,” Justice Hilton said.
“In applying the principles of sentencing to the facts of this case and notwithstanding that no weapon or excessive force was used, a sentence is required which is sufficient to express the community’s abhorrence of this type of behaviour. That sentence must act as a deterrent to the convict specifically and to other persons minded to act in a similar fashion,” the judge said.
Justice Hilton sentenced Bethel to eight years at the Department of Correctional Services. The sentence takes effect from September 30, the date of his conviction.
The jury heard that while the convict’s wife was at work, Bethel, his daughter and the girl were there at the house.
The girl asked Bethel to connect a DVD player to the television in the living room which he did before he went to take a shower.
However, moments later, he came back wearing only a towel.
Bethel, according to the girl, approached her as she was lying on the couch watching television and said: “Come let me eat this fat ‘crabby’,” using a colloquial term for female genitalia.
The jury was told that Bethel proceeded to push his head between the child’s legs, pulled down her shorts and underwear and performed oral sex on her as she unsuccessfully fought him off.
After some minutes, Bethel ejaculated on the couch and demanded the girl to clean it up.
Instead, the girl went into the bedroom where his daughter was asleep to awake her and report what had occurred. The girl also told a neighbour of what had transpired.
Bethel was arrested the following morning.
While an investigation of the matter revealed that the child’s hymen was intact, police did find forensic evidence showing “dried” semen on the couch.
Bethel’s lawyer, Roger Minnis, had asked the court to exercise leniency when imposing a sentence on his client given that the married, father-of-one, had no prior convictions.
He said there were no allegations of continuous or prior occurrences of sexual abuse or allegations of weapons, instruments of torture or threats of harm used against the victim.
He also stressed to the court that there were no physical injuries to the victim and that his client had, at all times, cooperated with the authorities.
Crown prosecutor Raquel Whyms suggested that the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating circumstances in the case.
She said there was a prevalence of sexual offences in the Bahamas and that the assault will have long-term effects on the child who experienced the trauma at such a young age.
The prosecutor further stressed that Bethel breached his position of trust as a custodian and had also expressed no remorse for his actions.
In his written ruling yesterday, Justice Hilton noted that the general principles of sentencing, as set out in Halburys Law Vol 11 are “retribution, deterrence, reformation and reparation.”
“Each case must depend on it’s own circumstances and various factors must be considered by the court in deciding which principle of sentencing should predominate,” the judge said.
“In the Bahamas, the offence of unlawful sexual intercourse with a dependent child carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. This penalty underscores the gravity of the offence as it places this offence in the category of such other offences as murder, manslaughter and armed robbery, which nearly always warrants a custodial sentence. The court also recognises that sentencing for this type of sexual offence involving minors by persons who hold a position of trust has been adjudicated on by our Court of Appeal in the cases of Andrew Birdgewater v Regina 2007 and the Attorney General v Richard Campbell 2004,” the judge added.
The appellate decisions mandate that the minimum sentence that should be imposed in such cases is seven years.
“In exercising my discretion in sentencing, I must consider those factors which are both mitigating and aggravating about the offence and the offender. In applying the principles of sentencing to the facts of this case and notwithstanding that no weapon or excessive force was used, a sentence is required which is sufficient to express the community’s abhorrence of this type of behaviour. That sentence must act as a deterrent to the convict specifically and to other persons minded to act in a similar fashion,” the judge said.
Justice Hilton determined that eight years was an appropriate sentence.
Bethel has the right to contest the conviction and sentence to the Court of Appeal.
The Crown can challenge the sentence if it desires.
David Cash assisted Ms Whymms in prosecuting the case.