By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
A MAN has been released from prison after the Court of Appeal shortened his one year sentence to three weeks for hitting a motorcyclist with his car and killing him in Abaco earlier this year.
The appellate tribunal of Justices Jon Isaacs, Stella Crane-Scott and Sir Michael Barnett shortened Ducamel Simeus' sentence to just 21 days for killing Brandon Turnquest on June 6 on Forest Drive.
As the new sentence was ordered to commence in the second week of August, and because he was in custody from the day before, Simeus was released two days before the start of September.
According to the appellate judges, their reason for shortening Simeus' original sentence was because the sentence passed was "unduly severe" given the circumstances of the case.
According to the facts, around 5.55am on June 6, Turnquest was travelling east on Forest Drive on a 2005 red and blue Honda XL motorcycle. While passing the Church of God of Prophecy near an unnamed street, he was struck from his motorcycle by a black Mazda waggon driven by Simeus.
Simeus was travelling west on Forest Drive and failed to stay on his side of street, thus entering the path of the motorcycle and causing the collision.
An eyewitness, Michael Russell, who was sitting on a wall with his girlfriend in the vicinity of the accident, said he saw a white bus travelling east. He said he also saw a black car in the left lane that had signalled its intent to make a turn.
Russell said Turnquest then overtook the white bus on the inside lane. Simeus' car, meanwhile, was at a stop. Russell said Turnquest could not apply his brakes in time, thus he hit his head on Simeus' windshield and flew into a tree before hitting the ground.
Simeus was subsequently charged with killing in the course of dangerous driving and pleaded guilty to the offence. He was consequently sentenced to 12 months in prison by Magistrate Ancella Evans.
In sentencing Simeus, Magistrate Evans opted not to impose the maximum sentence nor the maximum fine, as the man had pleaded guilty at the "earliest opportunity and did not waste the court's time with a lengthy trial". Magistrate Evans also said she "carefully considered" the submissions by Simeus' attorney as well as his age.
However, she said she could not ignore the "undisputed facts nor the preponderance of offences of this nature".
Dissatisfied with Magistrate Evans' "apparent failure" to consider a fine as opposed to incarceration, Simeus appealed her decision on the grounds that the sentence passed "without a fine as an alternative" was "harsh and unreasonable having regard to the total circumstances of the case"; and "any other ground which the court deems just".
The appellate judges, following a "concession" by Crown prosecutor Abigail Farrington, said the court was of the view that "the sentence imposed by the learned magistrate in the circumstances of this case is unduly severe".
As a result, they quashed the original sentence and substituted a sentence of 21 days. The judges ordered the new sentence to take effect from August 9. However, as Simeus was in custody from the day prior, the appellate court took into account the time he spent on remand, thus allowing for his release on August 29.
Mario Gray represented Simeus on appeal.