After a brief deliberation, the Court of Appeal yesterday reduced the two-year sentence imposed on Teneisha Evans, the girlfriend of alleged police rape victim Colwyn Harding, to six months.
Evans, now 19, will be released from the New Amsterdam Prison on June 3, after completing her truncated sentence for simple larceny, to which she had pleaded guilty.
On December 3 last at the Providence Magi-strate’s Court, the then 18-year-old Evans admitted to stealing and selling the property of a relative in order to raise bail for Harding. Harding, who was charged with assaulting a Peace Officer and disorderly behaviour, has since accused the said policeman of ramming a condom covered baton up his anus and brutalising him at the Timehri Police Station.
Melissa Ifill, a member of the Colwyn Harding Support Group which was formed to assist Harding as well as all of the persons who were arrested with Harding on November 18 last and allegedly brutalised by the police, said that Evans is elated at the reduction of her sentence. She said that Evans’ attorney Nigel Hughes did not appeal her conviction but rather challenged the sentence. Ifill said the lawyer argued that the sentence was harsh considering that the crime was non-violent, that she was a young person at the time, and that she was a first time offender.
Hughes also argued that the teen received the higher end of the sentencing guidelines that are in place for a simple larceny offence, she said, noting that the lawyer highlighted that there were mitigating circumstances, including that her mother died, leaving her responsible for two younger siblings, and that she assisted the police in recovering the item. These were among the grounds presented, she said.
According to Ifill, the state counsel asked that the conviction be upheld but did not object to the sentencing being reduced. After deliberating for less than ten minutes, Ifill said judges returned to the bench and indicated that the sentence should be reduced from two years to six months.
Asked about Evans’ reaction, Ifill said that the teen cried as she was happy. Ifill noted that the happier option would have been for her to have been released immediately but she said that the entire group is pleased at the decision of the judges. “It’s a small victory for the young people who were brutalised that day, November 18,” she said, adding that it is unfortunate and sad that Evans had to endure seeing her friends being brutalised and later suffering a harsh sentence. “It was a traumatic experience… she is happy that she will be out and we are committed to working with her and family so she can contribute positively to society,” she added.
Ifill told Stabroek News that the teen “is a bright girl and the sky is the limit for her once she focuses.” She added that the teen is committed to helping children and young people who find themselves in conflict with law and as a result she is looking at studies in social work or law.
Ifill said the support group will assist her in whatever way possible. “I expect she will do well with her life,” she said of Evans.
Last month, the Court of Appeal granted an extension to allow Hughes to file an appeal on behalf Evans. Hughes had explained to media operatives that Evans had two weeks to appeal her sentence but she didn’t. “It was only when the Colwyn Harding story blew up that we got involved and we discovered that there were other people involved. You had Teneisha and Tiffany… the time to appeal had long gone and we then had to apply to the court,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) retired Justice Cecil Kennard told Stabroek News yesterday that he was not finished making his recommendations on the case file because he was out of town. He said that when he returns today, he is going to give the matter priority. “For the Harding matter, I have looked at it. It is just to put pen to paper now,” he said.
Concerns have been raised as to the length of time it is taking for a final decision to be made in the matter, following internal investigations of the alleged assaults by police. This is the second time that Kennard is examining the file after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had sent it back to the police with instructions to conduct further investigations. It is that additional work done that Kennard is looking at. The chairman had told this newspaper on May 7 that he had finished his review but the delay in penning his conclusions and returning the file to the police was due to the fact that he had to attend the funeral of murdered T&T senior counsel Dana Seetahal. He had said too that the file would have been dispatched the following week.
While expressing frustration at the back and forth route the matter was taking, he said that he had to look at some additional statements as well as a report on the findings of a local doctor who had examined Harding’s anus after he had been discharged from the hospital. He expressed his disappointment that the findings of a Jamaican doctor were not included in the file that is before him.
The local doctor’s report was submitted to the DPP by Hughes prior to the file arriving there. Both doctors during their independent examinations reportedly concluded that a foreign object was inserted into the man’s anus.
Asked about Harding’s case, Ifill told Stabroek News yesterday that she hasn’t heard about anything recently. She said that the fundraising drive set up for Harding’s medical care “is going but a little slow.”
She said that Harding is “trying” but has had his challenges health-wise. “He is fighting. It is difficult for a young man to be living with that condition. He is hanging in, he is a strong young man who needs a lot of support,” she said.
Although Harding was allegedly assaulted in November, his story was never made public until January.
According to his mother, she had informed senior officials that her son had been sexually assaulted and the complaint was handled at the Brickdam Police Station, but nothing was done. Following the publication of Harding’s plight, the matter was immediately handed over to the Office of Professional Responsibility.
The rank who had been implicated in the alleged rape was placed under close arrest before being allowed to resume normal duties at another location. Several ranks from the Timehri Police Station were also transferred as a result of the allegations.