A 21-year-old Campden Park man told the Serious Offences Court today (Tuesday) that his week in prison was an unpleasant experience during which he had to sleep on the floor next to a toilet in a cell with 24 other men.
The, man Kenshown Byam, was remanded in custody on Oct. 31 after Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne heard the facts in the case in which he had assaulted Keith James, 27, a storeroom clerk of the same address, occasioning actual bodily harm.
Browne remanded Byam partly at the request of the prosecutor, Inspector of Police Renrick Cato.
The court heard that the two men are neighbours and there is an ongoing dispute between them.
While Byam has accused James of provoking him whenever he would see him, Byam has never reported this to police.
However, on Sept. 23, about 7:50 a.m., James was standing near the hard court in the South Leeward village waiting for a van to work.
While there, he saw Byam walking towards him, coming from the direction of Lowmans Bay.
Both men made eye contact and as Byam got closer, they had an exchange of words.
Byam then ran home and returned with a cutlass. On seeing this, James began to run.
Byam, however, caught up with James and struck him three times in the back with the cutlass.
James was able to escape but Byam continued to chase after and pelt stones at him, which missed him.
However, Byam later caught up with James again and scuffled him and struck him on his right hand and head with the cutlass.
James went to the Questelles Police Station around 8:14 a.m. that same day and filed a report.
Byam was later arrested and gave police a statement admitting to the office.
In the statement, Byam said James had approached him with a firearm and he went home for a cutlass, returned and planned (beat with the broad side of a cutlass) James with it.
Police searched James’ home but found no firearm. The police also made several attempts to recover the cutlass but were unsuccessful
Byam, however, pleaded not guilty when arraigned and only changed his plea to guilty after the third court appearance.
On Tuesday, Cato noted that Byam has spent a week in prison. “I guess he would want to tell the court what the experience was like,” the prosecutor said.
Browne then asked Byam if he had received three square meals a day in prison and he said, “Yes.”
The chief magistrate asked him if they were delicious and the defendant said, “No.
“I thought they used to give big sliced fish, and they does have nice baked (homemade-type) bread ,” the magistrate said sarcastically.
The defendant said that was not the case.
“So, you didn’t eat good?” she asked the defendant, who responded no.
When asked how he slept, Byam told the court he slept on the floor.
“You?” The magistrate said in a teasing tone and asked if there were no mattresses. Byam said no.
“They didn’t have any fluffy blankets,” she asked the defendant, who said there was no space in the cell so he had to sleep near the toilet.
“You? Way yo saying?” she said in the Vincentian vernacular in a tone that suggests feigned disbelief.
Byam told the court there were 24 other people in the cell.
“Twenty-four of you? I can’t even recall seeing that amount in a sardine tin,” the chief magistrate said, triggering some muted laughter in the court.
“Quite packed,” she said, adding, “Could have been quite warm too. Snug.”
Changing to stern tone of voice, the chief magistrate said:
“That is what bad man behaviour gets you. Because it wasn’t getting through to your head last week that your actions were wholly ridiculous,” she told Byam.
She said Byam seemed convinced that he was justified to continue his pursuit of the virtual complainant.
Browne noted that there are hardly any females coming before the court, adding that it seems that the young men are bent on revenge, getting back at each other, and taking up other people’s issues.
“At the end of the day, you are the ones who are losing your lives.”
She noted that Byam pleaded guilty on his third appearance before the court.
“When the court heard the facts, the court could not believe that you put yourself over there; unnecessarily so,” the chief magistrate said, referring to the defendant’s dock.
She noted that the virtual complainant was waiting for a bus, not molesting anyone when Byam walked up to him and there was an exchange of words.
Browne said Byam proceeded to threaten James, telling him that when he returned from where he was going he would have a quota of licks for James.
“Not satisfied with that, you take it up on your high horse, run home for cutlass … Oh ‘he is a gun man.’ And he is running from you for his life,” Browne said, citing the facts.
She said James fell several times while running from Byam, who kept pursuing him.
“I never see nothing in there about gun pull, gun shoot; nothing. And you kept going, going, going,” she said, adding the medical report of injury form showed the injuries that James suffered.
“And you just seem — no remorse or anything,” she told the defendant.
‘you were soaking for him’
The magistrate said Byam’s actions were totally unnecessary and the court had to consider all those facts within the framework of the sentencing guideline for violent offences.
She said that James did not suffer any severe psychological harm as a result of the assault, but she highlighted that this was not necessary because he suffered physical injuries.
She said the matter could have ended after the two “throw your little talk”.
“But you get on. He dodged you all around Camden Park, all through all kinds of tracks, you running him down still,” she said.
She said the court put the seriousness of the offence at the highest level because of the multiple blows James received even as he continued from Byam.
The chief magistrate noted that the maximum penalty for the office is five years imprisonment and the court Byam’s sentence at 1.5 years.
The court said that Byam was motivated by revenge because he told James something about his (Byam’s) “soldier” (close friend) and James.
“You’re not even saying an issue with you and him. Something with your soldier. Your soldier here defending you? What nonsense are you on?
“You had it, you were soaking for him, as we say colloquially.”
The court said there were no mitigating factors of the offence and added two months to the sentence.
There were no aggravating factors of Byam, who has no previous convictions, and the court reduced the sentence by two months.
The court further granted a one-quarter discount for his guilty plea, bringing the sentence to 12 months.
The chief magistrate decided to suspend the sentence for one year.
“Because this offence is so serious and you, if you continue with this attitude, you will, for sure, very soon, go around there (prison),” she told Byam.
“And too much is happening nowadays. I am not putting the Vincentian public at risk for anyone who cannot control their temper or their attitude,” she further noted.
She pointed out that James was injured, adding that Byam would have to pay him EC$2,500, of which EC$1,000 was to be paid forthwith or three months in prison and balance by Dec. 20, or six months imprisonment.
She told Byam that he has a right to appeal.
Browne further stated:
“But you have to learn to curb your temper. Your mother was making an intervention in here and you want to rear up. What is wrong with you? Check yourself!”
After Byam exited the dock, the magistrate said it is not the responsibility of the court to train, babysit and discipline children.
“So, you send that message. That is for you and your friend. Things are getting too out of hand and the court will apply the necessary sentences to suit every complaint,” Browne said.
Byam paid the EC$1,000 of the compensation amount that the court ordered be paid forthwith.
After exiting the courtroom, he told iWitness News that in addition to what he told the magistrate he had “shed nuff tears’ (cried a lot) in prison.