Man serving 30 years for killing baby in Kaneville house fire wants sentence quashed

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L-R: Nigel Dodson and Romain Seth

A 24-year-old man who was found guilty of setting fire to a Kaneville, East Bank Demerara (EBD) house, killing an eight-month-old baby boy in the process, has moved to the Guyana Court of Appeal seeking to have his conviction and sentence quashed.

On December 2, 2020, Justice Sandil Kissoon sentenced Nigel Dodson to 30 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of the crime. Dodson only becomes eligible for parole after serving a minimum of 25 years.

Dodson has not yet retained a lawyer for the appeal; his Notice of Appeal was prepared on a form authorised by the prison authorities. However, during his trial at the High Court, he was represented by Attorney-at-Law Adrian Thompson.

The charge against him stated that on January 23, 2017, he murdered eight-month-old Romain Seth, during the furtherance of arson on a dwelling house.

Media reports stated that the early-morning fire destroyed the three-bedroom home of Michelle Menezes several days after Dodson, who resided at the same premises, threatened to kill her entire family, over his gun which had gone missing. Dodson has maintained his innocence.

State Prosecutor Nafeeza Baig urged the court to impose a sentence that reflected the nature and gravity of the offence. Baig described Dodson as a “menace to society”, stating that the killing was premeditated and even after he was found guilty, he expressed no remorse.

In handing down the sentence, Justice Kissoon noted that Dodson set fire to the home, having no regard for the value of human life. The Judge said that an entire family could have been destroyed as other persons were living at the home. According to the Judge, Seth was an innocent baby who did not get to enjoy the wonders of life.

The Judge explained that the court must balance the interest of justice with the interest of society. In this regard, Justice Kissoon noted that the court had to ensure that the punishment imposed for the crime served as a deterrent to like-minded individuals who may want to consider committing similar heinous acts.

Because of Dodson’s young age, the Judge declined to impose the life sentence as he believed the young convict could be rehabilitated for reintegration into society.

Justice Kissoon, in calculating an appropriate sentence for Dodson, started at a base of 25 years. To that, the Judge added five years for aggravating factors, including premeditation, endangering the lives of others, and destruction of property.