Court upholds jail time for pensioner found guilty of sexual assault of young girl

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Kenrick Morrison, a man in his mid-70s, was on Wednesday sent back by the Guyana Court of Appeal to complete serving a seven-year jail sentence he had appealed following a conviction for engaging in sexual activity with a young girl.

Following a trial in 2015, Morrison was found guilty of engaging in sexual activity with a girl under age of 16 on February 12, 2013 in the county of Demerara.

According to the facts of the case, Morrison is known to the young girl. On the day in question, the girl left for her grandmother’s home to have her school bag mended. While going there on her bicycle, she met Morrison, whom she called ‘Ken’.

The little girl inquired from him if her grandmother was at home, and he told her the woman had gone to the hospital. Morrison accompanied the young girl to her grandmother’s home. When they got there, he held, dragged her inside of the house, and begun rubbing her shoulders. The elderly man then put the girl to sit in a chair, and stuck his tongue down her mouth while feeling her breast and vagina.

The girl managed to escape, and went home and told her mother what had occurred. Investigations were conducted, and Morrison was arrested and charged for the offence.
He has always denied touching the young girl.

While leading his defence during the trial, he had testified that he met her on the road, followed her to the house, where he opened the door for her, and then left to feed his chickens.

Dissatisfied with the sentence imposed by Justice Jo-Ann Barlow, Morrison, through his lawyer Mark Conway, filed an appeal. He was placed on bail pending appeal in 2017.

The grounds of appeal the convict had proffered had included the following: the verdict of the jury was unreasonable and could not be supported based on the evidence adduced at the trial; the trial judge had misdirected the jury on matters of fact; the trial judge had not sufficiently addressed the jury on the inconsistencies of the evidence of the victim and her mother; and the indictment was bad in law.

This appeal was heard by Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, and Justices of Appeal Dawn Gregory and Rishi Persaud. Senior State Counsel Mercedes Glasford had appeared on behalf of the State.
Delivering the court’s ruling, the Chancellor informed that the contention that the verdict was unreasonable was without merit.

According to Justice Cummings-Edwards, both the victim and her mother had given evidence, and were subjected to cross-examination by counsel for Morrison. From the records of appeal, the Chancellor noted that the trial judge, in her summing to the jurors, had gone through the evidence, and had told them of their duties.

“She [the trial judge] explained to them what they had to look for, and told them it was their duty to scrutinise the evidence of the victim, because it was from her evidence that they would have to decide whether they are satisfied, so that they feel assured that there was sexual activity…”

Moreover, the Court of Appeal rejected Morrison’s argument that the trial judge did not address the inconsistencies and omissions in the evidence. Justice Cummings-Edwards highlighted that Justice Barlow explained to the jury how they ought to treat those inconsistencies and omissions.

“The verdict of the jury was not ambiguous; it was not unreasonable, it was supported, having regard to the evidence. This appeal is dismissed. The sentence imposed by the learned trial judge is affirmed,” the appellate court ruled.

In the circumstances, Morrison was ordered to surrender himself to the authorities to complete serving his sentence. The two years he spent incarcerated following the conviction and before bail was granted would be deducted from the initial seven-year prison term. The offence for which Morrison was convicted carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment upon indictment.

Before passing the sentence, Justice Barlow had reprimanded Morrison while noting the strict view the law and society take regarding such offences against children. The Judge had also firmly upbraided the convict for the position of trust which he breached in committing the crime.