LEGAL HISTORY was made yesterday after the Court of Appeal heard arguments and delivered a ruling on a conviction imposed just over three months ago in the Port of Spain High Court. It was the first time an appeal had been disposed of in such a short space of time (appeals are generally not heard until several years after the original trial).
The landmark decision was delivered by Chief Justice Michael de Labastide, who presided over the hearing along with Appeal Court judges Roger Hamel Smith and Lloyd Gopeesingh. They upheld a rape convicton registered against Carenage electrician Dion Julien last March 25, but reduced his prison term from 20 to ten years.
“This shows what the system is capable of in terms of speeding up hearing of appeals” the chief justice said as he announced the decision.
Julien was represented by attorney-at-law Martin George who filed eight grounds of appeal but later withdrew three of those grounds. The appellant was found guilty of raping a young woman who asked him to escort her home from a party on June 5, 1988. Sentence was imposed by Justice Melville Baird.
Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Rangee Dolsingh appeared for the state in the matter.
When asked for comment on the sentence he told the court: “Rape is a heinous offence whatever the circumstances but there are different circumstances which should be reflected in the severity of sentence.
“The sentence in all circumstances of this case was too high and the court should vary it accordingly.”
The chief justice, in a decision that took 50 minutes to deliver, said there were no aggravating circumstances in the case which would have warranted the original 20-year prison sentence.
The Appeal Court ordered that Julian should start serving his reduced prison term from yesterday.