Guyana-born female high court judge, Madam Justice Paula Gilford has imposed a 4-year and 2-month sentence on former Chemistry teacher, Joel Pascal, who was found guilty of committing a sexual offence against one of his students.
Justice Gilford, who handed down the sentence at the No. 2 High Court on The Carenage in St. George’s last week Wednesday, also banned the 33-year-old from working in an environment around children.
Pascal, who formerly taught chemistry at the Happy Hill Secondary School in St. George, was accused of leading a 14-year-old female student into sexual acts back in 2012.
The accused was initially charged with indecent assault and rape but the latter charge was dropped.
A 9-member Jury panel found him guilty in March of indecent assault and he was acquitted of the rape charge as the jury felt that the act of sex was consensual.
The incidents allegedly occurred between February 1 and June 30, 2012, on the compound of the secondary school.
According to the evidence presented in court, Pascal had locked the classroom door and proceeded to touch the student inappropriately.
It was also revealed that the accused and the student had a very close relationship in and outside of the classroom.
On a previous occasion, the now convicted man admitted to returning a kiss to the third form student, after she kissed him first.
However, up to his sentencing, Pascal maintained his innocence and said that he and the victim only had physical contact on one occasion and that is the time when they kissed.
The ex-school teacher who has since the incident found employment as a security officer, was not remorseful over the situation.
Defense counsel, George Prime, in mitigating Pascal’s case, asked the court to consider the circumstances that would have led up to the incident involving his client and the student.
Prime pointed out that Pascal “is handsome looking” and that all the students had liked him, which he felt was a significant factor that would have contributed to the ex-school teacher finding himself on the wrong footing.
The defense attorney also referred to the Social Inquiry Report (SIR), in which the accused was described as a very kind, warm-hearted, selfless, helpful and jovial individual.
According to Attorney Prime, Pascal was also described as a good teacher who has the ability to relate to the students at the school.
However, the report also spoke of Pascal, who has been married since November 2015, having a propensity to engage in sexual activities with minors.
In handing down sentence, Justice Gilford told Pascal that the court notes that he was also involved in a relationship with another student at the time he committed the offence against the other school girl.
Pointing to the 64 indictments of sexual offences, which presently dominate the April Cause List, the female High Court Judge told Pascal that the sentence that she will impose upon him, should serve as a deterrent to other potential perpetrators.
“The court will continue to impose stiff sentences for these types of offences until potential offenders come to the realisation that such behavior would not be tolerated,” Justice Gilford declared.
The aggravating factors considered by the court include the fact that Pascal’ showed a lack of remorse, that he was held in a position of trust; the youthful age of the victim, that he used her vulnerability to engage in the act, the infringement of the standards of social acceptable behaviour and that the victim has suffered psychologically and had even attempted to commit suicide.