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Judges’ acts a lift to victims

Published: 
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Justice Malcom Holdip and Justice Carla Brown-Antoine

“We will handle it ourselves.” It’s a sentiment that’s being quietly adopted by various groups in different sectors across the country, if something happens to them or the ones they love.

For those who adopt the position, it has little to do with vigilante justice and more to do with the almost unchecked state of criminality, the number of unsolved crimes and the overburdened legal system that exists.

It’s no secret that jointly, these factors have undermined public confidence in some of the security and legal agencies in this country.

But this week, Trinidad and Tobago’s courts restored a degree of confidence in the system.

It came through the rulings in at least two cases of violence against women.

After seven years and multiple attempts to murder her, a woman was told on Monday in the High Court by Judge Carla Brown-Antoine that her ex-boyfriend, Vernon James, was sentenced to life in prison.

When the maximum penalty was imposed, Justice Brown-Antoine noted the lack of remorse shown by the accused.

Yet, when James was originally arrested by police, his response was: “Boss, ah real love that woman.” Judge Brown-Antoine also held the view that if released, the 56-year-old James would try again to kill the victim.

This newspaper wholeheartedly endorses the decision of the court in this matter. Justice Brown-Antoine indicated that the harsh sentence was meant to serve as a “deterrent” to potential domestic abuse offenders.

There’s a view that the effectiveness of deterrents to crimes of passion are debatable, but what we can’t dispute is that the ruling of this judge has provided hope to countless women across the country who have been previously disappointed by a system meant to protect them.

The tears running down the face of the victim after the ruling told a story by itself.

This is a woman who sat through years of prolonged court questioning, detailed descriptions, embarrassing counter arguments, shame and humiliation.

Seven years later this woman still bears scars and struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The second case that stood out was the decision by Justice Malcolm Holdip to impose a sentence of death by hanging, to a man who contracted a hitman to murder his ex-wife. This newspaper reported that it took a jury less than an hour to return the guilty verdict.

The event took place 11 years ago. It also revealed during the trial that the accused, Basdeo Ramlochan, tried to solicit multiple hitmen with the assistance of co-accused Siewkumar Chankapersad, before finding the one who committed the actual crime. It took 21 witnesses and 11 years to get justice.

Justice was eventually served for these two women, and for that we are all grateful to the ones who pursued these matters.

But the reality is that in this country, it’s going to take a while to rebuild confidence in both the security and legal systems.

The true statistics of domestic abuse, rape and violence against women in this country will never be known, because they are simply not reported. Like the woman in Judge Brown-Antoine’s court, no victim wants to sit through years of reliving what happened.

There is a story we know to be true of a woman who was brutally raped in an upscale residential complex about 10 years ago. She was stabbed multiple times across her thighs, abdomen and other areas.

The mutilation was severe and bloody enough for the perpetrators to flee the scene believing she was dead. There is no record of the case because the police, who were called, never came.

The young woman lived. Only a few people were ever told the story. Women like her chose then, as they do now, to handle it privately because of shame, trauma and the belief that the system of investigation and justice would drag on too long, and there was always the risk that it would never deliver.

That’s why what happened in the courts this week gave hope.

But seven and 11 years are a long time to wait for justice. We hope that too, one day, can be fixed, not just for the women who suffer at the hands of violence, but for all of us.