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The defendants, Leisha Johnson, right, and Paige Baptiste return to prison after the hearing on Friday, June 7, 2024.
The defendants, Leisha Johnson, right, and Paige Baptiste return to prison after the hearing on Friday, June 7, 2024.
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A lawyer has asked the court not to jail two Geriggs women who attacked another villager with a cutlass and a knife on Jan. 29, 2020, when they were all teenagers, leaving her with scars on her face.

Paige Baptiste, 21, and Lesha Johnson, 24, were originally charged with attempted murder in connection with the attack on Z’annie Charles, 20, who was 16 at the time. 

However, the charge was reduced to wounding with intent and a jury found them guilty of the lesser charge.

On Friday, at High Court No. 2, in Kingstown, Lewis asked Justice Rickie Burnett to order his clients to pay Charles EC$5,000 in compensation.

He said the social inquiry report aligns with the practice direction that the court should avoid criminalising young offenders.

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Lewis further said that the victim had stated in court that the permanent scar she has on her face as a result of her injuries does not make her less attractive to men or less likely to get a job.   

“… the victim clearly stated to the court, pompously, that she could get a new man; that doesn’t prevent her from getting a man; she can still get a man and it does not prevent her from getting a job,” Lewis said. 

“She even pompously said that she made a video while she was in hospital, saying when she comes back she will take anybody’s man.”

The lawyer further said that when the person who prepared the social inquiry report contacted Charles, she said, “Miss, let me make your work easier.’

“And that was it. She didn’t want to discuss anything. That pomposity in court may well have been the reason for the initiation of the challenges that came for her and not as an example of any trauma,” Lewis told the court.

He said that when Charles gave evidence before the court, “there was no indication that [she had] suffered from any trauma as a result of the injury.

“The doctor clearly said that it healed perfectly well. I am standing about 10 feet away from the box, you can see no mark at all; none you will see on the face of the individual.”

He and the trio were friends and the social inquiry report confirmed his suggestion of counselling, generally, and for anger management, specifically.

Lewis said that the report was “based on psychological analysis in which there may have been an attempt to go into psychiatric analysis, but it stopped halfway”.

‘an archaic statement’

He took issue with the report’s author’s suggestion that the court impose a sentence befitting the crime.

The report also concluded that the defendants are good candidates for rehabilitation and may benefit from anger and conflict resolution sessions.

“This old maxim that the court imposes a sentence befitting the crime should be avoided, especially in situations where the report provides information that is contrary,” Lewis told the court.

Linton Lewis
Lawyer Linton Lewis in an Aug. 7, 2019 photo.

Lewis said it is “an archaic statement, especially when it comes to sentencing and sentencing guidelines where the punishment is always qualified by societal factors, cultural factors.”

The lawyer reminded the court of the sentencing principles concerning people below 18, adding, “… it is rather amazing that precisely what this direction is saying that we should avoid, all those factors are identified in the social inquiry report.”

Lewis said the guidelines say there should be a focus on the individual, especially when the offender is under 18.

He added that the practice direction further said that factors that should be given serious consideration in determining the sentence are deprived homes, poor parental employment, low educational attainment, early experience of offending by family members, experience of abuse and or neglect, negative influences from peers and associates and the misuse of drugs and alcohol.

Lewis said the social inquiry report points to several adverse childhood experiences in Baptiste’s life, including paternal neglect, emotional and physical abuse, exposure to domestic violence, abuse and becoming a young mother when she was 13 or 14.

He further told the court that the practice direction said that to criminalise is to impose a stigma.

“And it’s not only the impact on the individual offender but also the welfare of the offender,” he said, adding that Baptiste’s 6-year-old son talks about self-harm.

 “Why? Because in school they’re talking about his mother being in prison. So that has started already. ‘When is your mother coming home?’ The impact is not only on that individual’s life, personally, but also the life of a son,” the lawyer said.

Lawyer suggests community service

The lawyer also recommended that the court consider ordering community service.

“That is also very good because what it does is that it demonstrates and shows that within the community that work not only helps to mend bridges, but it also helps to impose a responsibility on the individual to recognise and accept that what was done may have had some impact on the community,” he said.

He also referred the court to an Antiguan case where a young man was beaten, knocked unconscious and ended up in intensive care with punctured lungs and broken bones but his assailant did not serve prison time before he was a minor.

“That child wasn’t given a custodial sentence,” Lewis said, adding, “I implore you in the circumstances to look at those things very carefully, to review my recommendations as I stated them…”

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