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25 yrs jail for killer

By JADA LOUTOO Wednesday, July 16 2014

click on pic to zoom in
Convicted murderer, 
Neil Hernandez....
Convicted murderer, Neil Hernandez....

LEGISLATORS have been called on to make a policy decision on the cut-off point for offenders found to be legally unaccountable for their crimes.

The recommendation was made by three appellate judges who yesterday vacated the death sentences imposed on a convicted killer, and substituted it with two terms of life, of not less than 25 years and five months.

The life sentences for Neil Hernandez will however run concurrently, and will be counted from the date of his conviction on November 29, 2004. Hernandez was sentenced to hang for murder of Christine Henry and her son, Phillip Henry, on May 2, 2000, at Toco.

As his substituted sentence was imposed by Justices of Appeal Paula Mae Weekes, Alice Yorke-Soo Hon and Rajendra Narine yesterday, Hernandez sought to address the court, complaining that he had spent 14 years in prison, from the date of his arrest.

He was quickly taken out of the court by police officers, with whom he also began to quarrel as he was being led out of the prisoners’ docks.

Hernandez’ case was remitted to the local appeals court by the Privy Council to consider fresh medical evidence on his mental capacity. Hernandez presented two distinct psychological profiles — a depressive illness of long standing, and a level of cognitive functioning that represents a learning disability which is consistent with low levels of education, according to British neuropsychologist, Dr Alastair Gray.

As Narine pointed out there was nothing to suggest that Hernandez was unable to distinguish between right or wrong, or he was not fit to plead, and that the Privy Council did not disturb his murder conviction.

Narine noted, there were varying degrees of mental retardation, from very severe to very mild.

He said it was the court’s view that it would be a matter for the legislature to make a policy decision as to where the cut-off point should be, for offenders to be considered legally unaccountable for their unlawful conduct.

He said if members of society hold the view that it was repugnant to evolving standards of decency to impose the death sentence on mentally retarded persons, then those members were entitled to make the views felt and lobby Members of Parliament to introduce legislation which reflects those standards.

“It is not for our courts to impose its subjective views of what ought to be modern standards of morality on the society,” he added.

Since there was a delay of nine years and seven months in carrying out the sentence of death on Hernandez, the judges held that his case fell within the Pratt and Morgan principle that individuals who had spent more than five years on death row cannot be executed.

Henry and her six-year-old son Phillip, went to the Tompire Beach, Toco, to bathe. While at the beach, she was attacked by Hernandez who was armed with a cutlass.

He dealt her several chops about the body. Phillip, aged six, was also chopped several times by Hernandez.

Phillip died on the spot and his mother succumbed to her injuries on May 6, 2000.

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