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DH | Court reduces sentence of a child rapist by 5 years

HomeLandenSint MaartenDH | Court reduces sentence of a child rapist by 5 years

PHILIPSBURG–The Joint Court of Justice on Tuesday reduced the sentence of convicted child rapist Joy Walters (36) from thirteen years in prison to eight, as the appellate judges considered the former primary school secretary less accountable because of her own psychological issues.

In July 2022, the Court of First Instance found main suspect Bernard Stroud (53) and his extramarital lover Walters guilty of raping and molesting four girls over a period of several years. The victims – all pupils of the school where Walters worked – were between 5 and 11 years old at the time.

The lower court sentenced Stroud and Walters to 17 and 13 years in prison, respectively.

Walters initially pleaded innocence, but changed her tune during the lower court trial in June 2022. At the time, she claimed to be a victim of her long-time lover Stroud, with whose wife Walters also had a sexual relationship.

She confessed to raping the four girls during the appeal trial last month, saying she had to take nude photos and perform sexual acts on the girls to see if they were “freaky” enough for Stroud.

Walters told the court that she brought the girls to her home for tutoring and then delivered them to Stroud, who lived two doors down the street in Belvedere. She also admitted to having sex with Stroud and one of the girls at the same time.

“He said to see if they were good freaks, if they had liked to have sex. And I bring them by him,” she told investigators in an interview leading up to the appeals trial.

Although ruling that Walters deliberately abused her position of trust and authority over the children, the panel of three appellate judges followed the advice of a psychiatrist who, after examining Walters multiple times over the past two years, concluded that she is less accountable for the crimes.

The psychiatrist found that Walters is dependent on others, sexually traumatised and child-like when dealing with adults. The mental health professional also recommended that Walters receive clinical treatment to minimise the risk of her committing a similar crime in the future.

“The defendant’s behaviour is based on a complex personality problem, which has its origins in the circumstances under which she herself grew up,” the judges said in their verdict.

TBS not possible

The judges said they would have imposed a so-called TBS measure on Walters if the option were available in St. Maarten. A TBS measure usually commits a convicted person to a special institution for clinical treatment tailored to their disorder or mental illness.

However, St. Maarten has no institutions that can facilitate TBS and clinical treatment is not possible at the Point Blanche prison.

“The court therefore puts great emphasis on the fact that it is both desirable and necessary that [St. Maarten] makes the right arrangements to provide adequate psychiatric/psychological treatment of the defendant,” it was stated in the verdict. “Because it does not appear that the defendant’s treatment in prison will be possible within a reasonable period of time, the court assumes that the Prosecutor’s Office will make an effort to obtain treatment in another country in the Kingdom during the execution of the prison sentence.”

Sentencing

The judges said they did not reduce Walters’ sentence only because of her diminished criminal liability, but also because of her confession.

“It is worth noting that, with her confession, the defendant has not only taken responsibility for the misery she caused to her victims, but also that she thereby acknowledges that those victims told the truth about what happened to them,” it was stated in the verdict.

The court’s sentencing guidelines call for a prison term of four years for raping a child under 12 years old. However, the sentence can be increased for several reasons, such as the abuse of authority or trust, whether there are multiple victims, and if the crimes occurred over a long period of time.

During the appeals trial last month, the solicitor-general had demanded that the Joint Court sentence Walters to 10 years in prison. The prosecutor in the lower court trial had requested the same punishment.

Trial postponed

The appeal trial of main suspect Stroud was scheduled for the same day as Walters’, but it had to be postponed because of the man’s loss of hearing. This development has grossly inhibited Stroud from participating in his own defence.

Stroud’s lawyer told the court in a pro-forma hearing last December that medical professionals are trying to determine whether Stroud will require surgery or if they can correct his deafness with a hearing aid.

The condition causing Stroud’s deafness has yet to be confirmed.

However, because Walters’ trial went ahead in January and not Stroud’s, the Joint Court probably will now have to appoint another set of judges to preside over Stroud’s upcoming case. This is because the original judges are no longer impartial, as they have already rendered a verdict in Walters’ case, whose case file covers much of the same evidence as Stroud’s.

Stroud and Walters were tried together in the lower court, but the cases were separated on appeal.

Both were arrested on April 7, 2021, and have been in custody since.

Bron: Daily Herald

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