Schoolteacher gets reduced sentence for Indecent Assault

34-year old school teacher Joel Pascal has been given a reprieve by the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal on an Indecent Assault charge involving a secondary school girl.

Joel Pascal whose sentence for Indecent Assault was significantly reduced to 18 months in prison

The Court of Appeal has significantly reduced the sentence that was handed down on April 17, 2017, on the former Chemistry teacher at the Happy Hill Secondary School (HHSS).

During a sitting of the court between January 29 and February 6, the Justices of Appeal lowered the sentence to only 18 months from the previous ruling of 4 years and 2 months against the teacher.

Guyana-born High Court Judge, Madam Justice Paula Gilford imposed the sentence after the accused was found guilty of indecently assaulting and leading a 14-year-old female student into sexual acts.

The incidents reportedly occurred on the school compound, between February 1 and June 30, 2012.

Justice Gilford also banned Pascal from working in an environment with children.

The convicted teacher was initially charged with 1 Count of Rape and 1 Count of Indecent Assault but on March 13, 2017, he was acquitted of the Rape charge in a 7 to 2 majority verdict.

THE NEW TODAY understands that the majority of the jurors felt that the act of sex was consensual.

The former school teacher was represented by Attorney-at-law George Prime who on April 19, 2017, filed a notice of appeal at the Supreme Court Registry, against the conviction and sentence imposed on him.

In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY last week Friday, Attorney Prime said that Pascal’s conviction was appealed on two grounds in an effort to get the Justice of Appeal to squash the sentence.

Prime argued that Pascal’s conviction was “unsafe as the verdict that the jury had returned, is inconsistent and was therefore perverse (and) that the Judge misdirected the jury on how they were to deal with the lesser offense of Indecent Assault.”

The Court of Appeal, which was presided over by Justices Davidson Baptiste, Paul Webster and Gretel Thom, did not agree and upheld the conviction against Pascal by dismissing the application.

However, the Court agreed with the grounds of appeal against the 4 years and 2 months sentence handed down to him and held that it was “manifestly excessive in all of the circumstances” of the case.

On another ground of appeal against the prison term, Attorney Prime contended that “Justice Gilford didn’t adequately give reason, which led her to the conclusion that she should send him (Pascal) to jail, bearing in mind that he was a first time offender, of previous good character and was someone that was very closely attached to the school community.

According to Prime, the Prosecution which was led by Senior Crown Counsel in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Howard Pinnock was unable to justify the sentence of 4 years and 2 months imposed on his client.

He said the Justices held that “in all the circumstances of this case, it is submitted that a custodial sentence was indeed merited, however the respondent (Prosecution) cannot justify the length of time imposed.”

Pascal was arrested and charged for the offences under the old Criminal Code, which stipulated a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment for persons convicted of Indecent Assault and 15 years for the offence of Rape.

Under the 2013 Revised Criminal Code, the maximum penalty for Indecent Assault is10 years imprisonment and 30 years for Rape.

THE NEW TODAY understands that Pascal is due to be released from Prison on March 13 – the same day as the upcoming general election.

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