Kidnapper’s sentence cut

| 19/11/2013

(CNS): Clarification and correction: This story has been updated to correct an error in the name ofthe trial judge. The original trial was presided over by visting judge, Justice Harrison and not as previously and incorrectly stated Grand Court Justice Charles Quin — The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal has reduced a ten year sentence handed down to a convicted kidnapper by two years following an in person appeal by the inmate from HMP Northward. Charles Webster (left) was ordered to serve a decade behind bars by the visting trial judge, in 2011 following his conviction on six counts for his part in the abduction, robbery and blackmail in Cayman’s first ever kidnap for ransom.

The appeal court said that the sentence was not manifestly high and they would have not interfered with the judge’s decision had the same judge not given a much lower sentence to one of Webster’s three co-conspirators, which had created a significant disparity.

Webster was one of four men involved in the kidnapping plot, in which Tyson Tatum was abducted and held against his will for almost two days in March 2010 before he was able to escape when the kidnappers inadvertently left him alone and had loosened his ties. The men had tried to extract a ransom of some $500,000 from Tatum’s family but his escape foiled the plot.

Webster was arrested shortly afterwards, along with co-conspirators Allan Kelly, Wespie Mullins and the man who was believed to be the mastermind behind the plot, Richard Hurlstone. However, Hurlstone was released on bail and he absconded, it is believed to Honduras, but Cayman has no extradition treaty with that country. Although he has never faced trial, the crown was granted leave to try him in his absence and the judge in the case indicated that, had he been found guilty, he would have been jailed for around fifteen years.

Mullins was also considered a major player in the plot and he and Hurlstone would have receive the lion’s share of the ransom money if the plot had been successful. But because he pleaded guilty, cooperated with the authorities and gave evidence against the criminal gang, he was given a hefty discount and ended up with just a five year sentence, compared to the ten years handed to both Webster and Kelly.

Given the fifty percent shorter sentence, Mullins has since been released, having served two thirds of his sentence before being paroled.

Webster argued before the appeal court judges this week that despite his low level involvement, his late entry into the plot and the various mitigating circumstances highlighted by the judge, the two men he said were the main protagonists in the plot are both free while he is looking at many more years in jail before being eligible for parole.

In the delivery of their decision Wednesday morning, when the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal reduced Webster’s sentence to eight years, it was the disparity between the sentence given to Webster compared to that of Mullins which the three justices said had to be addressed.

“But for the element of disparity on which he relies, I would not have thought it appropriate to interfere with a sentence of ten years but the judge's reasoning is not easy to follow,” said Sir John Chadwick, the president of the appeal panel, as he read the decision. He said that while Mullins should have got a discount for his guilty plea and his cooperation, it was questionable that it should have been as much as 50% of the sentence given to his co-conspirators. This, the higher court judge said, was an indication that somethinghad gone wrong and that Webster had a legitimate grievance.

The appeal court found that if the judge had started with a sentence of around eight years or more for Mullins and discounted for his assistance, there was no reason why the judge should have started so much higher when he calculated the sentences handed down to Webster and Kelly. Allowing the appeal, they reduced the main sentence for abduction to eight years.

The judges also noted that Webster was not disadvantaged by not having a defence attorney represent him as he had set out his arguments in a clear and comprehensive memo on the grounds that he thought his sentence unduly high.

Although the court heard that Kelly, who also received a ten year sentence, had filed an appeal against the jail term, that appeal was understood to have been abandoned.

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Category: Crime

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  1. Anonymous says:

    reduced !!!!!!!!! again ?????? is nobody getting proper punishement anymore ???

    6 month for rape ???????  a few years for murder ????? omg…no ..OMG what is going on ????????????  these judges are way to soft  !!  SHAME again !!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think kidnapping can carry the death penalty in the states

  3. Anonymous says:

    The posters so far have missed the most important point.  He was giving an appropriate sentence but the Grand Court judge gave too low a sentence to others before him so absent good reasons for the disparity the sentence had to be reduced.  It shows how soft the judges are in Cayman and why they need to give out longer sentences.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I feel sorry to the victim and the victim’s family. I could not imagine what the victim went though and probably still does being kidnapped against ones own will! Going through trial and now this! Shame on the system again! His sentence should have been increased by 2 years instead!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Unbelievable.  If he is a Honduran national, can we not just send him back to his birthplace and be done with him, rather than give him a reduced sentence only to get out in no time at all and try to kidnap some other victim…….

    • Diogenes says:

      Ummm.. so you want to release him now instead?  And he's never going to come back, right?  This way he serves his time then gets deported.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is shallow thinking. If expat criminals understand that they are in far better position than Cayman criminals because the worst that can happen if they are caught is that they are deported it would be no deterrent at all.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I dont agree with the time being cut short! A crime is a crime punishable to the extent of the law! He was a part of it and should pay what consequences were handed to him! 

  7. Anonymous says:

    Charles Webster defended himself well and should use his jail time to study law. It just shows you that these criminals are no fools and that if they put their time and energy into good they would and could be decent citizens with good professions.

    • Anonymous says:

      He can study law all he likes but with a serious criminal conviction he will never be a lawyer.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Yes! Soon be free 

  9. Pliny the Meddler says:

    Can we not just save some time and money and simply have the Court of Appeal review and approve a Judge’s sentence before it is handed down?