A TOBAGO mason who was sentenced to 15 years in prison last year after he was found guilty of raping a 12-year-old girl in 2008, will have to face a retrial after the Court of Appeal quashed his conviction and sentence yesterday.
The three-judge panel comprising Justices of Appeal Paula Mae Weekes, Alice Yorke-Soo Hon and Mark Mohammed agreed that the conviction and sentence imposed on Clint Melville, 48, should be quashed and that he be made to face a new trial before another judge at the Scarborough High Court.
Last March, Melville, of Bethel, Tobago, was found guilty by a nine-member jury following the trial which was presided over by Justice Norton Jack.
The State’s case was that on February 23, 2008, the girl was at her grandmother’s house where Melville, who the girl had known for about five months, was doing some masonry work. During the course of the day, Melville and the girl spoke about a range of topics including sports. Melville had also enquired from the girl if she had ever engaged in sexual activities and the girl responded by saying “yes” before the discussion continued.
The girl later went to her mother’s house, which was on the same compound, to watch television. Shortly afterwards when she came outside, Melville asked her to meet him under uncle’s house, also on the same compound, and the girl complied. When she arrived, Melville pulled down his pants and underwear and also undressed the girl before he proceeded to have intercourse with her. She resisted but Melville did not stop, the State alleged. Melville attempted to have intercourse with the girl two other times that same day but she refused, the State contended.
Again, on that same day, the girl informed her mother what had taken place before a report was made at the Old Grange Police Station before Melville was arrested and charged by acting Sgt Alicia Piggott. During the trial, Melville denied he ever had sexual contact with the girl.
In the appeal, defence attorneys Patrick Godson-Phillip and Daniel Khan, relied on three grounds of appeal. They argued that the trial judge did not did not direct the jury to take Melville’s good character into account when assessing his credibility in relation to his exculpatory evidence (evidence in a criminal trial that exonerate or tend to exonerate the accused of guilt). They also argued that the judge erred in law by failing to comply with the proper procedural requirement of taking majority verdicts and that he erroneously stated that medical evidence showed the girl had been sexually penetrated hours before she was medically examined.
The attorneys argued that even though the medical stated the girl was sexually penetrated, it did not state how recently the intercourse had taken place and that the judge failed to deal with the girl’s testimony that she had been sexually active previously.