REGARDLESS of the crime, imposing excessive jail terms is not justice. When it involves one man pleading guilty to multiple crimes - the punishment for which could be life in prison - a San Fernando judge’s sentencing could break new ground in local jurisprudence.
John Jude Arjoon, 36, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, kidnapping, rape, robbery and larceny. Justice Hayden St Clair Douglas, presiding in the San Fernando High Courts, is tasked with deciding a custodial sentence that will meet both the requirement for justice but also not be so excessive as to become an oppressive sentence.
The judge must decide whether or not to impose a consecutive sentence on the five charges Arjoon has pleaded guilty to, or a concurrent sentence. A consecutive sentence means Arjoon must serve the entire sentence handed down per charge. Thus, if he gets ten years on each of the five charges, he must serve 50 years.
A concurrent sentence means while he is jailed for a total of 50 years (ten years by five charges), the accused will only serve the base sentence of ten years.
In 2005, Arjoon who is from Erin, pretended to be a PH driver and picked up a woman in San Fernando. He drove to a lonely road where he placed her in the trunk and left her there. That same year he picked up another woman in Marabella and drove to a lonely road where he raped her. He robbed her of a cell phone, wallet and $1,000. He placed another woman in the trunk of a car along a gravel road in Golconda but she managed to jump from the moving car and was found later on the side of the road. This woman later died at hospital. For the past 13 years, Arjoon has been in jail awaiting trial. Attorneys Trevor Jones and Ramesh Deena are representing the State and Arjoon respectively. Both have filed written submissions for Justice St Clair Douglas’ consideration on the issue of Arjoon serving consecutive or concurrent sentences.
On Wednesday, defence counsel Deena submitted that the total maximum jail term on all five offences is over 100 years. A one-third deduction for guilty pleas and subtraction of the 13 years spent in jail awaiting trial, will leave just over 50 years and such a term is one no court will order.
If manslaughter and rape carries life (a minimum of 35 years) and the other two charges, 25 years, should the judge apply the formula of deducting the one-third discount and the 13 years from each specific sentence?
If the judge does, the amount left for Arjoon to serve, Deena submitted, would be 18 years. If after each deduction on each sentence, state counsel Jones submitted, should the court order the sentences to run concurrently or consecutive? And either way, would the sentence be considered too lenient or too harsh.
Jones submitted, “If the court passes sentence all at the same time, should the court exercise a discretion in granting full discount and time spent for one offence, and exercise a residual discretion on the other offences?” St Clair Douglas will pass sentence on June 13, saying that a Caribbean Court of Justice case can offer some guidelines.