Thu | Apr 2, 2020

Prison term cut for sex convict teacher - Had intercourse with 15-y-o at school during class time

Published:Monday | January 27, 2020 | 12:24 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Staff Reporter

An assistant teacher who admitted to having sex with a 15-year-old student at a Spanish Town high school while classes were in session has had 18 months shaved off his near nine-year prison sentence.

Horace Gordon, 27, will now have to serve seven years and three months in prison for his 2017 conviction for the offence of having sex with a person under 16, the Court of Appeal has ordered.

The appeal court, in a decision handed down last Friday, said it would not set a minimum period that Gordon must serve before he becomes eligible for parole.

Gordon pleaded guilty before the St Catherine Circuit Court on March 31, 2017, and was given a sentence of eight years and nine months in prison.

He is a past student of the school where the incident occurred in April 2015 and assisted students enrolled in its drama club, court records have revealed.

The judge who presided over the case found that Gordon “abused his authority as a teacher by taking the child out of class and having sexual intercourse with her on the school compound and during class time”.

The Sexual Offences Act, under which he was sentenced, stipulates that where a person convicted for having sex with a minor is an “adult in authority”, a minimum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment should be imposed, with a condition that the court specify that a period of 10 years be served before the offender becomes eligible for parole.

Among other things, the law defines an adult in authority as “an adult who is in a position of trust or authority in relation to a child”.

The presiding judge indicated that as a starting point, she considered a sentence of 15 years in prison but added five years because she regarded him as a “person in authority”, according to court transcripts that have been made public.

After considering a number of mitigating factors, including his age and the fact that he had a young child at the time, the judge reduced the sentence to 15 years before applying a 40 per cent discount for his guilty plea.

“Thereafter, she credited him with the three months that he had spent in custody prior to sentence. That reduction resulted in the sentence of eight years and nine months that she imposed,” the transcript explained.

TOO HARSH

Despite this, Gordon, through his attorneys Isat Buchanan and Alexandra LaBeach, challenged the sentence before the Court of Appeal as being too harsh.

“The sentence of the court imposed [ sic] on the appellant Horace Gordon of nine years [ sic] imprisonment is manifestly excessive and cannot be supported in all the circumstances,” the attorneys argued, according to court documents.

They contended that the judge erred when she found that Gordon was a “person in authority” as “he was never employed by the Ministry of Education or [school’s name redacted] as an assistant teacher pursuant to the Education Act.

The attorneys argued, too, that the judge erred in the starting point she chose by overstressing the age difference between Gordon and the student; by failing to consider some relevant mitigating factors; and by failing to give their client “the most favourable view of the facts and circumstances of the case”.

The Court of Appeal, in its ruling, said that the decision to reduce the sentence by 18 months was based on the fact that the sentencing judge gave Gordon a 40 per cent discount for his guilty plea instead of the 50 per cent maximum provided in the Criminal Justice (Administration) (Amendment) Act 2015.

“It may well be that she thought that Mr Gordon was already getting a benefit for not having had to serve the statutory minimum sentence [10 years] that she could have imposed. She, however, did not say so,” read a section of the appeal court decision.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com