By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Court of Appeal has dismissed a man’s attempts at overturning his 25 year sentence for breaking into a young woman’s house and raping her at gunpoint while her children slept in the bed. However, the court took five years off his sentence because the original was considered “unduly harsh”.
Appellate Justices Stella Crane-Scott, Roy Jones and Milton Evans dismissed Anthony Penn’s appeal of his conviction and sentence for raping the 21-year-old woman as she and her twins slept soundly in their Englerston home in April of 2011.
However, the appellate judges shortened Penn’s sentence to 20 years, after finding that though the sentencing judge found Penn to be an “inveterate housebreaker”, he did not consider that at the time, the rape conviction was Penn’s first.
According to the ruling, on April 25, 2011, an unmasked Penn broke into the house through the front room window. Hr used a stick to prop the window open.
Sometime later, the victim was awakened by Penn who held a gun to her head and told her not to move or he would kill her. According to the evidence, Penn had managed to break into the house through the front room window, with a stick being used to prop it open.
Being in fear of her life and mindful that her twins were sleeping on the bed with her, she complied.
Penn asked the woman “where is the money?” and she told him she didn’t have any. He subsequently asked her if she had a cell phone, and she handed it to him. Penn subsequently rummaged through the woman’s bedroom drawers, as well as her wallet. Meanwhile, she covered her face with a sheet because she did not want Penn to know she saw his face.
Penn then ordered to her to lie down at gunpoint and threatened to kill her, before proceeding to rape her.
The victim testified that at some point she realized that Penn was using both of his hands to hold her by her waist, and thus not brandishing the firearm. As a result, she reached out and grabbed the weapon, only to discover it was an imitation firearm. The woman then shouted out to her mother and began to struggle with Penn, who in turn pulled a screwdriver from his waist and attempted to stab her.
By that time, the victim’s mother and sister were in the room trying to assist in thwarting the attack. Penn ended up stabbing the victim’s mother in the hand and attempted to stab her in the face.
It was after a neighbour came over to assist were they able to subdue and restrain Penn until the police arrived. Penn, the victim, her mother and sister were subsequently taken to the Princess Margaret Hospital and treated.
Penn was tried before Justice Jon Isaacs, now an appellate judge, on the charges of rape, armed robbery and burglary. The jury found him guilty of only rape and burglary.
Justice Isaacs, in sentencing Penn noted: “…The bulk of your convictions relate to shopbreaking and stealing, which suggests to me that you are an inveterate housebreaker...Your antecedents suggest that the punishment imposed in the past, and I see none no greater than four years, have failed to be a deterrent to you.
“…In much as sentencing seeks to achieve a number of things, not the least of which is the deterrence to the offender, deterrence to those who might be like minded to commit similar offences. This Court, really, the only leniency it can give, is not to sentence you to life imprisonment. However, you are going to be sentenced to a lengthy period in prison.
“…On the count of rape, you are sentenced to 25 years imprisonment at Her Majesty's Prison.”
Justice Isaacs further sentenced Penn to 10 years for burglary, with both sentences to run concurrently from the date of the sentence, May 31, 2012. However, the time Penn spent on remand, 13 months, was factored into the sentence.
Penn appealed his conviction and sentence on numerous grounds, all of which were unsuccessful except one, that the sentence imposed was unduly harsh.
In canvassing that ground, the appellate judges noted the crimes Penn committed were “aggravated” in this case because not only did he break into her house, but used an imitation firearm to frighten her before raping her while her young children slept in the bed with her. Additionally, the victim was “put through the ordeal of giving evidence in a trial”, the appellate court said.
Nonetheless, the appellate judges said based on the transcripts of the trial, transcript, they were unable to say that Justice Isaacs “balanced the relevant factors in handing down the sentence to the appellant”. However, the appellate judges said that based on Justice Isaacs’ comments, he was aware that Penn had no previous rape convictions at the time, something that “should have served as a mitigating factor” when he sentenced him.
The appellate judges thus asserted that the 25-year sentence was “unduly harsh” for a first rape conviction, and said the “proper starting point” would have been a 15-year-sentence to be increased to 20 years having regard to the aggravating factors of the case.
In April 23, 2011, two days before the incident for which he as on trial, Penn raped a pregnant woman despite her begging him not to violate her. He also robbed her at gunpoint of an undisclosed amount of money, with both acts coming during a burglary of her home.
In March of 2014, and after he pleaded guilty to the offences, Supreme Court Justice Indra Charles told Penn he would receive seven years for the burglary, 20 years for the armed robbery and 25 years for the rape to run concurrently with whatever sentence he was already serving at the time.
He did not get any additional time imposed on him due to the terms of a plea agreement he signed at the time that barred Justice Charles from doing so.
Penn tried to appeal that sentence, but the appellate court dismissed his attempts because he “freely and voluntarily” signed the plea agreement in which he agreed to the 25-year sentence and “understood its terms”.