Retrial ordered in rape case

Retrial ordered in rape case

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Court of Appeal has ordered a new trial for a man convicted of a rape and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

“We have considered this matter and we are satisfied that this is a proper case in which there ought to be a retrial of the matter,” Sir Michael Barnett said.

The oral judgement was handed down on Thursday.

The matter came before Justices Barnett, Stella Crane-Scott and Roy Jones.

He continued: “The appeal has been allowed, not because of any error of the prosecution, but rather because of an error of the judge.

“And we believe that it is in the interest of justice, having regard to the serious nature of the offence, that the matter be retried.

“In the circumstances, we direct that this matter be retried.”

Earlier this month, the appellate court overturned the conviction and sentence of Josue Celestin, who was accused of raping a woman in 2015.

Celestin and his wife lived with a relative, who alleged that in November 2015, while the wife was taking her children to school, the appellant entered her bedroom armed with a screwdriver and forced her to perform oral sex on him.

He also allegedly performed oral sex of the woman without her consent.

According to court documents, the unnamed woman was having her menstrual cycle at the time.

However, Celestin argued that all acts were consensual.

He denied possessing a screwdriver during the incident and testified the virtual complainant had an agreement that he would compensate her $50 to engage in the sexual acts.

He claimed it was only when he indicated he did not have the $50 was the matter reported.

He alleged the virtual complainant was a sex worker and the man she reported the incident to, beat him up for non-payment.

Following trial, Celestin was convicted of rape in October 2018 and was sentenced in March 2019 to 12 years imprisonment, but appealed on the grounds the conviction was unsafe as the trial judge failed to provide the jury with “good character direction”.

The Crown made the case that Celestin never put his character in issue nor did he request such direction from the judge.

In his ruling delivered on June 10, Barnett said the suggestion made that the virtual complainant was a sex worker put her character into issue, and as a consequence, put the appellant’s character into issue.

He said Celestin was entitled to good character direction, and even when defence counsel fails in duty to raise the client’s good character or to request the judge to give such direction on behalf of the defendant, the “judge was an independent duty to satisfy himself as to the appropriateness of a good character direction”.

“While the failure to give a good character direction does not automatically make a conviction unsafe, given the facts of the present case, a good character direction was required,” read the June 10 ruling.

The appeal was allowed and the conviction and sentenced was quashed

The appellant court invited the parties to make written submissions on the issue of a retrial by last Wednesday.