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Judicial CP - June 2007
Nassau Guardian, 29 June 2007
Rod not spared yet for rapist
By Timothy Schwab
The Court of Appeal adjourned yesterday with the fate of the country's corporal punishment regime and one man's yet-unscathed back in question.
Alutus Newbold, the Cat Island man convicted of burglarizing, biting, and attempting to rape an 83-year-old woman (who reportedly fought off Newbold by severely scratching his genitals), appeared in court yesterday to appeal his prison sentence of 16 years and eight strokes with the rod, an instrument considered less severe than the many-headed, infamous cat o' nine tails.
Corporal punishment has garnered The Bahamas international criticism from human rights groups, which call corporal punishment inhumane, but the court of appeals yesterday was more interested in what The Bahamas' penal code and laws had to say about the rod.
The arguments that captured most of the court's attention concerned an inconsistency in the law that arose when corporal punishment was reinstated in 1991, apparently without repealing a previous act that outlawed it in 1984. The two conflicting positions on corporal punishment left it unclear to the court yesterday whether the lower court's sentencing of eight strokes with the rod was valid.
But there was also a question of whether the punishment was appropriate. In the lower court, Justice Jon Isaacs sentenced Newbold to the flogging as punishment along with 16 years in prison for his burglary charge, a penalty which Newbold's attorney Kenneth Toppin called disproportionately severe to the crime, given that it was his client's first such conviction.
Newbold was also sentenced to six years for attempted rape and two years for cause of harm, with all of his sentences to serve concurrently for a total of 16 years. Acting Director of Public Prosecutions, Cheryl Grant-Bethel, noted that all of Newbold's sentences are less than the maximum penalties he could have been awarded.
Two of the judges, including President of the Court of Appeal Dame Joan Sawyer, wondered aloud if Justice Isaacs' intention in awarding the corporal punishment sentence had been to address Newbold's attempted rape, even though it was attached to the burglary conviction, a crime against property which historically has garnered corporal punishment sentences in The Bahamas.
Sawyer also made mention of Isaacs' rather passionate language in sentencing Newbold. Isaacs reportedly called Newbold a "beast" and expressed regret that the elderly victim didn't have stronger fingers that could have inflicted more damage to Newbold's genitals.
"Does that color the sentence?" Sawyer asked the court, noting her own regret that the local media had played up the comments.
The court adjourned yesterday by asking that a "social inquiry report" be made into the mental soundness of Newbold, who apparently had inaccurately given his age to the courts. (The court believes him to be 36). Such an inquiry had not previously been conducted on Newbold, according to his lawyer.
A decision by the Court of Appeal is expected in the days or weeks ahead.
Attorneys on both sides of the Newbold case yesterday acknowledged the potential the Court of Appeal decision could have on the future application of corporal punishment, which Amnesty International criticizes in its 2007 report on The Bahamas.
"The Bahamas made a unilateral declaration against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment at the United Nations in September 1981," the report states. "The 1991 amendment to the law allowing corporal punishment seems contrary to this voluntary act."
Another convict, Andrew Bridgewater, is appealing his corporal punishment sentence of 10 strokes with the cat o' nine tails. In May, Bridgewater was sentenced to the corporal punishment and seven years in prison for his conviction of unlawful sexual intercourse with a 6-year-old girl.
The first five of his ten strokes with the cat o' nine tails were scheduled to be given yesterday, but the Court of Appeal registry indicated that Bridgewater's attorney had filed an appeal on his behalf. That motion should have put the corporal punishment off, though the prison department would not confirm that.
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