Despite a 15-year jail sentence, disgraced Corporal of Police, 852 Lennard Benjamin continues to maintain his innocence in relation to three sex related offences slapped on him.
The sentence was handed down last week Wednesday by High Court Judge, Justice Shiraz Aziz at High Court No.5 on The Carenage in St. George’s.
As he was being led away from the court compound back to the prison where he was on remand for the last 16 months, “Benjie” told reporters: “Make sure you say that I am innocent”.
The 47-year old River Road resident was initially charged with three counts of indecent assault and 2 counts of incest against his daughter, whom he did not acknowledge as being his own paternally.
However, on November 9, he was acquitted of two counts of indecent assault on the indictment as the nine member jury only found him guilty on one count, for which he was sentenced to three years behind bars.
“Benjie” was also found guilty of two counts of incest, for which he received a sentence of nine and three years, respectively, with the sentences running consecutively.
The offences allegedly occurred at some point during 2009, August 1, 2013 and May 29, 2014.
The police officer was initially granted bail in the sum of EC$200, 000.00 with three sureties but was placed behind bars after being found guilty of breaching the bail conditions by High Court Judge, Justice Price Findley in July 2015.
Crown Counsel, Crisan Greenidge, who led the State’s case in the matter, directed the court to the Victim Impact Statement, which revealed that the youngster who was approximately 12 years old when the first incident occurred, felt hurt to know that the man she knew to be her father all her life, now refers to her as his stepchild.
The teenager also expressed disappointment that the police officer denied her as his child and the fact that he committed the incidents against her.
She said that she still loves her father but given the circumstances of the acts against her, she simply cannot trust him ever again.
The court was told that the victim and her mother have become the victim of social ridicule and scorn as a result of the matter, which has been widely circulated in the public domain with help from the media, resulting in non-stop discrimination and derogatory remarks being thrown their way by members of society.
In pleading the victim’s case, Greenidge asked the court to deliver a consecutive sentence on the ex-policeman, who she pointed out “ought to have known better,” given his status and the office which he held at the time.
“Benjie” entered the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) in 1997, and 10 years later was promoted to the rank of Corporal of Police in December 2007.
In 2012, he was also one of several police officers awarded under the auspices of the Police Welfare Association as part of the RGPF Support Service.
He was attached for a long time to the Public Relations Department of the force and was later transferred to the Police Station at the St. George’s Bus Terminus, up until the time of his arrest.
His Social Inquiry Report shows that he was widely regarded by members of the RGPF as a very clever and crafty person.
Others described him as a good role model, who was humble, loving, helpful, honest, hard working and dedicated to whatever he was doing.
It was also noted that in his capacity as a police officer, he sought the best interest of the youth, as he often visited schools across the island speaking to students about various topics including domestic violence and drugs.
However, it was also revealed that he was a heavy drinker and an abusive husband, who was very close to and very over protective of his daughter and often times, did not approve of her engaging in conversations with persons of the opposite sex.
Criminal defense attorney, Anselm Clouden who did the mitigation on behalf of his client, asked the court for leniency and a discount for good behaviour for Benjie, pointing to the many admirable contributions he has made to the country.
Clouden acknowledged that there could be no escaping the “gravity of the crime and the harm done” and noted that “it was not until the year 1908 that incest was declared a crime.”
He contended that Benjie’s excessive drinking came about as a result of what he described as “an alienation of affection and a breakdown in the matrimonial consortium” between him and his wife.
He made mention of the testimony of the wife that even though she caught her husband wrongfully committing one of the acts against her daughter, she was afraid to make a police report because he had threatened to kill her.
In delivering the verdict Justice Aziz said that after having considered in totality, the principles of sentencing on matters of this nature from authorities in the United Kingdom and the Caribbean, the offences committed call for immediate custodial sentence.
Benjie’s sentence was discounted for the time already spent on remand and despite the efforts by his lawyer, the only mitigating factor considered by the Court, was the fact that he has maintained a clean police record up to this point.
Aggravating factors considered include the age of the victim, the infringement of accepted sociable standards, psychological trauma suffered by the victim and threats to prevent the reporting of the incident among others.
The Court ordered Benjie to participate in courses of sexual abuse and consequential thinking for a period of at least two years during his incarceration.
Justice Aziz said the sentence reflects the fact that sexual crimes involving children are most prevalent on the assizes list.
“This has to stop and society has to understand that,” he declared.
In commenting on the judgment, Attorney Clouden, who has 14 days to file an appeal, labelled it as a “deterrent (or) as a message sent out to deter prospective transgressors.”
He said, “usually sentences would run concurrently (but) in this case I guess His Lordship wanted to give a signal to the community-at-large that this is a grave, serious offence (and) that the courts are going to take (a) very stringent approach in sentencing for sexual offences of this nature.”