By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
A 73-year-old Grand Bahama man convicted of having unlawful sexual intercourse with an eight-year-old girl was labeled a repeated child sex offender who should serve a prison term of 12 years, a Crown prosecutor submitted to the Supreme Court.
Norman Ferguson appeared before Justice Andrew Forbes yesterday for sentencing after he was found guilty on September 28 at his trial.
He was also convicted in 2001 of attempting to commit a similar crime and had served five years in prison.
In her submission, prosecutor Erica Kemp said the convict’s history shows he has the propensity for sexually abusing children.
In addition to a 12-year sentence, the prosecutor is also asking that Ferguson be registered as a child sex offender.
Ferguson is represented by Carlson Shurland.
According to the facts, on March 10, 2019, sometime after 9pm the eight-year-old virtual complainant went to bed. Sometime after 11pm, the child awoke to find Ferguson on top of her. The court heard he penetrated her vagina with his penis.
The child was taken to hospital and examined by a doctor, who confirmed that her hymen was not intact and that there was pain and swelling of the vulva.
Mrs Kemp said that the law states that any adult who has unlawful sexual intercourse with a dependent child whether with or without consent is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for life.
The prosecutor called Wynelle Goodridge, chief probation officer at the Department of Rehabilitative Welfare Services, to present a probation report.
According to the social worker, Ferguson, who is the father of eight, described himself as an awesome father who provided for his children, but did not share a close bond with any of them.
She noted that he was diagnosed with several chronic illnesses, including hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease, arthritis, and loss of vision in one eye.
Ms Goodridge reported that although Ferguson was found guilty of a “heinous crime,” he failed to accept responsibility.
Mrs Kemp said Ferguson continues to maintain his innocence, according to the probation report.
“Not only in this matter, but in 2001 where he was convicted of the attempted (assault of another child). So, he is still saying in this report that he is innocent,” she said.
The prosecutor pointed out that Ferguson was not even trusted to be around his own grandchildren without supervision because of his past conviction.
Although the mitigating factors are that Ferguson is a senior citizen and that he suffers from chronic ailments, Mrs Kemp submitted that the aggravating factors outweigh them.
She said the convict was 70 at the time of the offence, while the complainant was a fifth grader.
She noted that the difference in their ages is 62 years.
Ferguson’s prior conviction to a similar sexual offence was also factor.
The prosecutor said Ferguson’s actions were premeditated.
She added that the convict was in a position of trust to the victim.
“He breached that trust. . .He preyed on the trusting nature of the eight-year-old child. . .he abused her,” she said.
The prosecutor further submitted that Ferguson could have pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, foregoing the court trial, and sparing the young victim the agony of reliving her experience.
“He is 73 and is just six days away from his 74th birthday. He is a repeat sexual offender, and it begs the question if he could be rehabilitated (at his age).
“We submit for his own selfish sexual gratification he robbed the victim of her childhood. The damage has been done and therefore the convict must be punished, however he must be treated no less than human.”
Mrs Kemp said the court must perform a balancing act to help Ferguson and protect other children from sexual abuse. She said he should receive counselling while in prison.
His attorney Mr Shurland submitted that a custodial sentence of 12 years equates to a death sentence in the case of his client, due to his age and illness.
He noted that his client would be released at age 90.
“She is asking to send him to jail to die in jail, it’s almost like a death sentence,” Mr Shurland stated.
Mr Shurland asked the court to exercise mercy.
“I ask to let him go with conditions,” he submitted. “I am asking the court to be merciful when imposing an appropriate sentence. He needs a break and has been ostracised and continues to be ostracised. We ask that the court not give him a 12 years custodial sentence,” pleaded the attorney.
He suggested that his client serve two years and be given treatment.
Justice Forbes is expected to deliver his ruling on the matter at 11am on December 13.
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