THE Court of Appeal has allowed the appeal of a Tobago mechanic who was convicted in 2019 of raping a teenager at Canoe Bay and has re-sentenced him.
Kecalf Romeo was also charged with kidnapping and grievous sexual assault for the rape of the then 17-year-old girl on July 25, 2015.
He was convicted on January 31, 2019, and at his appeal, initially complained of the incompetence of his trial counsel and the failure of the trial judge to consider a plea in mitigation on his behalf before sentencing.
The first complaint had been withdrawn at the hearing of the appeal earlier this month before Justices of Appeal Alice Yorke-Soo Hon, Mira Dean-Armorer and Gregory Smith.
Romeo’s attorney at appeal, Nena Narine, argued that the sentences handed down of 14 years, 11 months for rape; 11 years, 11 months for kidnapping and eight years, 11 months for grievous sexual assault, were unduly harsh.
In their ruling on Wednesday, the Appeal Court judges agreed that the trial judge failed to provide the sentencing methodology to be applied by all sentencing judges as set out by the Appeal Court in 2016.
In delivering the court’s ruling, Yorke-Soo Hon said it was important for judges to follow the four-tiered sentencing methodology as it made the sentencing process transparent and provides the offender with a clear rationale for the sentence. She also said the sentence must also be proportional, adding that in Romeo’s case, there was nothing to show that the sentencing judge had applied the methodology.
In highlighting the aggravating factors of the offence and offender and the mitigating factors, the judges began with a sentence of 13 years as an appropriate sentence for the rape. They deducted one year for mitigating factors and the time Romeo spent in custody, leaving him to serve a sentence of eight years and seven months for that offence.
Romeo also received new sentences of five years and seven months for the kidnapping, and six years and seven months for grievous sexual assault. These sentences will run concurrently since the judges said the offences were committed in one transaction.
Romeo has already spent three years and five months in prison.
At the appeal, Romeo’s attorney advanced testimonials from five people who spoke of his exceptional work ethic and trustworthiness. But, they noted, that although it was said he cared for his grandmother and was respectful to elderly people, “he still preyed on a vulnerable young girl.”
According to the evidence, the victim was on her way home when Romeo offered a drop. During the drive, he began talking to her about sex, telling her he was a “champion” at performing oral sex and sexual intercourse.
After refusing his advances several times, Romeo drove to a dirt road at Canoe Bay and raped her. He also threatened her with a screw driver.
Romeo then dropped the victim near her home. When arrested, he denied the incident, telling police, “Me eh know nutting about that.”
The State was represented by deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Joan Honore-Paul at the appeal.