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A Home Circuit Court in Kingston delivered its verdict on the Vanessa Kirkland killing that took place in 2012. The Court found three accused police officers, including a female officer, guilty of manslaughter and gave them a prison sentence of 14 ½ years each. While many see this as carriage of justice, there are questions being raised on the quantum of punishment. The verdict was arrived at by a seven-member jury.
Prosecution Succeeds in Convincing the Jury
The key issue involved in the unfortunate death of a 16-year old girl, a student of Immaculate Conception High School, is the claim from the side of the police that they were being fired at and they recovered weapons from the scene. Their story was that the occupants of the car were firing at them and they had to return fire in self-defence. The prosecution appears to have established in the court during the hearings and through eyewitnesses that this is not true.
The incident occurred on the morning of March 20, 2012 at Norman Lane in Kingston. The way it has been described is that the three police personnel, Ardewain Smith, Durvin Hayles, and Anna-Kay Bailey, all constables, who were going in their squad car, were fired at. They then stopped their vehicle, got out, and started firing at another car parked ahead on the side of the road. There were six occupants in the vehicle and although everyone received injuries, the 16-year-old girl succumbed to bullet wounds. The police claimed during the trial that the occupants in the car fired at them and they even found a pistol in the Suzuki Swift car they were travelling in. The jury weighed the evidence placed before them from both sides before coming to the conclusion that it is a case of manslaughter.
Inconsistent Punishment by Courts?
The criticism of the decision by the Court to give the three officers prison sentences of 14 ½ years is based a on precedent judgement in which murderers were handed down a sentence of 12 years in prison. That case involved hardcore criminals compared to a manslaughter case involving police constables. Such inconsistencies are witnessed all the time in judgement being handed out. The desire is for there to be more balanced judgements, possibly via well structured sentencing guidelines. This could be monitored by a panel of senior sitting or retired judges of the Supreme Court.