“The message must be clear that those who perpetrate sexual acts against young children should be sentenced appropriately to reflect the harm done.”
Justice St. John-Stevens
(CMR) Repeat sexual predator Tony O'Connell Ebanks was sentenced to eight years in Grand Court Thursday afternoon for indecent assault of a five-year-old child. The sentence was handed down after it was disclosed by the court that he had completed a court-mandated sex offender program in 2017 following several previous convictions.
O'Connell Ebanks had digitally penetrated the child and when he was arrested and taken to the detention center to be interviewed he asked, “that's all you've got nothing else”. He went on to deny the allegations and had a judge-alone trial last month where he was found guilty.
O'Connell Ebanks had been previously convicted of rape of an adult in 2009 and a further sexual assault against an 11-year-old child in 2016.
The psychological impact of the assault on a 5-year-old child weighed heavily on the judge's ultimate sentencing. The court heard how this young victim was now afraid to go to the bathroom alone and being bathed by others. She has been undoubtedly traumatized by the incident.
She had been referred to counseling which her mother was struggling to pay for. It appears that the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) is finally attempting to make counseling services available at no cost to the victim.
Justice St. John-Stevens noted that sentencing guidelines provide a framework for the court to follow. In this case, he had to assess the culpability of the defendant by considering the seriousness of this particular offense. He noted that there are offense specific guidelines implemented on April 8, 2020.
He first looked at the degree of harm and found that culpability had to be determined from a balancing of a number of factors. He noted that this was a category B offense being the starting point; which the lawyers had agreed upon. The sentencing starting point is 4 years in custody which refers to an adult defendant of good character being a range of between 4-7 years.
He eventually determined that there were sufficient circumstances to elevate this above the range and took up to 9 years as a category 3B offense.
However, this defense was not of good character given his previous convictions for sexual offenses. In 2017 O'Connell Ebanks completed a sexual offenders program after his second sexual offense conviction. During today's hearing, the judge remained convinced that he would continue to pose a clear and present danger to others.
“The fact is that after having completed the sexual offender's program he went on to commit this further sexual act on a child age five and breached his conditional release license.”
The was no social inquiry report ordered by the court in this instance. However, the judge did mention that there was a question of whether they could order disclosure of the findings of the sexual offender's program given that it was court ordered. However, he noted that he was not going to consider that at this time.
He noted that this offense “is an offense can be committed on a victim of any age but the very vulnerable age of this victim” was an aggravating factor. The location of the offense was also considered to be another aggravating factor. He also noted that O'Connell Ebanks had serious previous offenses before the court.
The defense submitted that the location and timing were not relevant but the court did not agree with that submission. The child should have felt safe which has been undermined by the assault. The defense also argued that the defendant's previous convictions were some time ago and should not be counted against him. The court did not agree with the position either.
The court also heard that he was remorseful after committing the act but found this to be minimal in terms of mitigation since he was there because of his own actions.
The judge also noted that he had to consider the level of risk posed to the public by the offender. He opined that the risk of future harm is likely to be significant in the circumstances.
The defendant has three children of his own with one being relatively young. The court also ordered a sexual protection order for 12 years.