A HIGH Court judge has utilised new provisions of the Domestic Violence Act which allows the High Court to impose a protection order if someone is convicted of a serious act of violence to protect the victim.
On Friday, Justice Lisa Ramsumar-Hinds imposed a protection order for 10 years on Leonnard Antoine, of Point Fortin, prohibiting him from assaulting his ex-wife, causing her physical harm, approaching her within 50 feet, visiting her at home or work, and having any contact with her at all.
The judge said it would make no sense to impose the three-year term provided for when a protection order is granted in the magistrates’ court. His ex-wife agreed to the protection order being imposed, saying she wanted no contact with him whatsoever.
Antoine was warned if he breached the order after he serves out the remaining two years and five months on his sentence for attempted murder, he will be fined and imprisoned. He can also receive a separate criminal charge to correspond with whatever criminal act is committed. “A criminal charge is separate from one for breach of the protection order,” the judge said.
She said the section introduced in 2020, “was beautiful” because of what it allowed a High Court judge to do in domestic violence cases.
The judge sentenced Antoine after accepting a plea deal entered between him and the State.
When the matter was called on July 8, the judge was forced to stop the proceedings after Antoine said he did not agree with some of the evidence presented by the prosecution.
The matter was adjourned to July 15, to give the man’s attorney, public defender Adelphia Trancuso-Ribero, an opportunity to speak with her client to determine his position before the matter progresses.
On Friday, Antoine said he agreed with the facts. His attorney said on the last occasion, that he did not fully appreciate what was taking place at the time.
Having been satisfied that he intended to plead guilty to the facts presented by the prosecution, she accepted the plea and was allowed to read out an apology letter he wrote to his ex-wife as part of his plea in mitigation.
He told his ex-wife he was sorry for what he did and felt hurt and ashamed by his actions. He said if he could undo the act, he would.
“I snapped under pressure and frustration.”
He also said he was sorry his ex-wife lost her earnings and suffered hardship because of her injuries, saying, “I wish I could compensate you, but I cannot because of my present situation.”
He asked his ex-wife to find space in her heart to truly forgive him.
In sentencing Antoine, Ramsumair-Hinds agreed to the starting point suggested by the defence and prosecution of 16 years. She said sentences for attempted murder can start at 25 years and go as low as 10.
The judge viewed the existing protection order in place when Antoine chopped his ex-wife in 2015 as a flagrant breach.
“He was bound by that order and in spite of that – that piece of paper carries the force of law – he committed the act.”
Although she recognised his expression of remorse, she noted he made excuses for his conduct, casting aspersions that his estranged wife was abusive.
“I find that to be gaslighting. That is unacceptable. I don’t encourage re-victimising victims… There is nothing that can warrant physical abuse…Nothing can warrant domestic abuse or gender-based violence.
“If you want to leave leave. Feel free to leave and leave everyone with life and limb.”
After discounting one year for his efforts to rehabilitate himself in prison and his clean record both before and during his incarceration; one-third for his guilty plea and the seven years and five months he spent in prison, the judge told him he was left to serve a remaining sentence of two years and seven months.
At the last hearing, prosecutor Ravita Persad-Maharaj read out the agreed facts in the case.
It was on Carnival Sunday when Antoine saw his estranged wife leaving another man’s home and ran into her with his car, then pulled out a knife and cutlass and began chopping her. She was chopped across her face.
He threatened to kill her as he chopped her. He was caught by villagers 15 minutes after the attack and the police were called. The knife and cutlass were retrieved and he told the police “a rage took him.”
The prosecutor also Antoine had breached a protection order in place on a number of occasions.
The woman read out her victim impact statement, telling of her fear and what she endured.