Getting away with murder
By Andre Bagoo Sunday, August 19 2012
A MAN admitted to murdering his wife in cold blood, but he was not convicted of murder.
On October 24, 2003, at their home on Mc Shine Street, Sangre Grande, Vishwanath Sharma chopped his wife Georgiana Sookoo to death. A neighbour at the trial described seeing Sharma standing over Sookoo, chopping her on the ground.
“Her face was hanging down. Her jaw and teeth were showing,” the witness testified. Sharma said he was willing to hang.
But like so many men brought before the courts, Sharma said he had lost control. He said it was his wife’s repeated taunts about problems in their sex life which led him to go berserk. The result was that he got off on a murder charge and was instead found guilty of manslaughter.
Sharma was sentenced to nine years in March this year. But because of the length of time it takes for matters to go to trial, he had already spent eight years in prison, meaning he served only a few additional months before being released this month.
The State seems to be letting men who kill women off the hook. The partial defence of provocation – used to justify so many terrible acts – is surely, in this day and age, more trouble than it is worth.
Contrast the killing of Sookoo with the case involving two men who robbed and killed a male taxi driver in 2006.
This week Ramzan Bachan was sentenced to 29 years jail for manslaughter. True, he’s not likely to serve that full term but the difference between the sentence in this case – where Bachan denied slitting the throat of taxi driver Elwyn Sampson in a bushy area – and that in the “manslaughter” of Sookoo is telling.
Justice Moosai, presiding in the case of the murdered taxi driver, noted there was a prevalence of the stealing of taxis, which most often result in the slaying of taxi drivers. He said the court had to protect the public as well as taxi drivers from the brutal assault of criminals.
But the law must also remember that it has to protect those who become victims of crimes of passion in which murderers – who are not deemed to be clinically insane – go berserk just because they got vex by something someone has said.
For example, last week Julie Parris and her 13-year-old son Timmy went to visit her 24-year-old son Brian and his pregnant wife Lucy Faria. Julie was separated from her husband, Steve Parris, and reportedly had had cause to take out a restraining order against him.
When Julie got to her son’s home at Mahabarsingh Trace, her husband confronted her in the presence of the children. Patrick picked up a knife and began stabbing Julie. Her son Brian tried to fight off his father. The father started to chop his son. Pregnant Lucy Faria intervened. She too was chopped. Julie was eventually killed. Patrick escaped. His body was found on Tuesday, hanging from a tree at his home in Navet. This tragic case is far too common.
Contrast how the legal system treats cases of men killing women with how it treats cases where women allegedly mistreat children. In recent times we have seen several cases where single mothers were swiftly brought before magistrates’ courts and had stiff sentences imposed for doing things like burning their children’s hands as punishment or leaving their children home alone while going out drinking. Two such mothers were last week brought before the San Fernando Magistrates’ Court. In most of these cases, the fathers involved have been absent and have not been charged alongside the mothers.