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Jasmine Hartin sentencing: Judge maintains ‘biggest fine ever,’ other punishments ‘in interest of society’

Posted: Wednesday, May 31, 2023. 8:58 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The judgment of presiding High Court Justice Ricardo O’Neil Sandcroft in the sentencing of Jasmine Hartin, 33, went fairly quickly this afternoon – but the now convicted Hartin didn’t have much to say whereas the judge got a very lengthy last word.

After the court was called to order, there was a sidebar between Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl-Lynn Vidal, Senior Counsel, and Hartin and lead counsel Orson Elrington. (Hartin was also represented by Senior Counsel Hubert Elrington). This was to agree to the facts of the case prior to the sentencing. After one minor amendment was made, Hartin stood up to say she now agreed entirely with the facts of the case presented by the prosecution.

Justice Sandcroft made quick work of the six victim impact assessment statements (VIAS) submitted by various family members of the deceased, Senior Superintendent Henry Jemmott, as well as Deputy Commissioner of Police Dr Richard Rosado and others, and the social inquiry report prepared by the defense, treating these without objection as read into the record.

After Hartin rose again to confirm that she had no point of law to bring against her being sentenced, it was time for final statements in mitigation by the defense and a response by the DPP.

Orson Elrington told the court that Hartin had been and was contrite, thoughtful and remorseful; had complied with conditions of the court and cooperated with the police despite reported issues with them; had pleaded guilty at the earliest possible opportunity, and had already begun to make compensation payments to the Jemmott family.

Director Vidal contended in reply that the family was not aware of such payments, that the guilty plea could have come at arraignment rather than ten months later and that too lenient a sentence as asked for by Elrington would lessen the great impact suffered by the Jemmott family. She also noted that the fatal shot was fired while Hartin was under a level of intoxication.

Justice Sandcroft began by noting that under the Criminal Code, the maximum penalty for manslaughter by negligence is five years in prison, but that much of the case law established less harsher sentences from fines to lighter terms behind bars. He reiterated that the interest of society could not be confused by emotion or outrage and that the ultimate sentence considered several factors, from the commission of the crime to the chance of rehabilitation – opining that the Central Prison and the system inherited from colonial times tended to favour punishment over rehabilitation.

But the most overwhelming factor of all was that a life was lost, that of a reputable and venerable man to his colleagues in the Police and to his family and to society, and that while Hartin was a first-time offender and otherwise unblemished in terms of criminal record, she had not exercised the best judgment by drinking and handling such a powerful weapon at the same time.

The $75,000 fine ordered is to be used, the judge ordered, to set up a rehabilitation and recovery fund for stressed out and burned-out police officers and is due in 12 months, i.e., by May 31, 2024, in default 12 months jail. Additionally, community service would be served at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) based on Fabers’ Road in Belize City, and Hartin would participate in the making of a video telling her story and lecturing against the dangers of drinking and handling firearms.

Neither Hartin nor Jemmott’s family had any comment as they left court hurriedly, hounded by the press corps. It was left to Elrington to discuss the scale of the judgment and the precedent it sets moving forward.

Elrington noted that the restrictions placed on Hartin as conditions of her bail are lifted and she is free to move around and travel, including leaving the country, so long as she completes the terms of her sentence: ““She has the right to leave the country now, just like you and I, so of course it is that she has the right to leave the country. There is no restriction on her anymore for her not to be able to leave the country, but she has no intention [of doing so]. Her life is here in Belize.” He also specifically denied claims that Jasmine was seeking to go to Turks and Caicos Islands to see her children – it was “the last place” she would go at this time.

An appeal is up to Jasmine but as Elrington noted, the fine is “significantly more” than anyone has ever paid in such a case.

On the compensation point, Elrington maintained that his client believes the funds she paid to the family were a start toward compensation and that the court was explicit that while the fine goes to the State, compensation would be determined through the civil courts – a departure from previous case law where both matters are considered at the same time. It was his responsibility and duty, Elrington told us, to ensure the court was aware that such payments were made but there was no formal figure established.

A one-year period is the standard time in which such complaints should be filed with the courts.

 

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