Home News A Soesdyke man serving life for hacking his 3 children to death loses …
A 40-year-old man who, in 2016, handed down three life sentences for hacking his three children to death while lying asleep, has lost his bid to have the Guyana Court of Appeal reduce prison terms. His appeal against jail terms was dismissed on Monday.
John Blanchard of Dr. Charles Sand Road, Soesdyke, East Bank Demerara, was charged with the October 11, 2011 murders of his three young children: Joy, six years old; Belika, aged 10; and Daniel, aged four. Their cause of death was given as multiple stab wounds.
However, he was allowed by State Prosecutors to plead guilty to three manslaughter charges. Justice Barlow imposed a life sentence on all counts, directing that they be served at the same time. The Judge further ordered that the murderer not become eligible for parole until after serving at least 30 years.
It was reported that the convict had accused his wife, Onica Blanchard, of being unfaithful since she had worked indoors at a mining camp, and had been away for a very long time.
On the day in question, the couple had a phone conversation when Onica told her husband she wanted the house and land. The woman also told her husband that she should keep the children.
John told his wife that it would be difficult for him to look after their children all alone, and as a result, they were involved in a heated debate. He said he was upset after his wife told him she was not returning home until Christmas.
Then John turned his anger on his three children, mercilessly stabbing them as they lay in bed asleep. In a warning statement, John told the Police he wanted to commit suicide after killing his children, but “he was unable to do so.”
Moreover, the assassin told Justice Barlow that he loved his children and that he did not know what might have caused him to turn his wrath on them. He had told the Judge things were bothering him and all he could remember was arguing with his wife that he wanted to come back home.
Dissatisfied with the sentences imposed by the trial Judge, Blanchard, through his lawyer Mark Conway, moved to the Court of Appeal seeking a reduction. He argued that the sentences were clearly excessive and did not accord with established sentencing guidelines.
The confessed murderer further argued that Justice Barlow erred in law in not allowing or stating that the minimum period of imprisonment must include the time spent on remand. He also argued that the trial lawyer had failed to submit an application that could mitigate the sentences.
Chancellor of the Judiciary Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Appeal Magistrates Rishi Persaud and Dawn Gregory rejected defense counsel’s argument that the trial Judge erred in law in not allowing a reduction. Conway had relied on a ruling from the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in the Romeo Da Costa Hall vs. The Queen case.
The CCJ ruled that, in that case, full credit should be given for the time an accused person spent in pre-trial custody. But the Court of Appeal emphasized that the principles, in this case, do not “automatically” apply to all cases.
“This is not cast in stone. There are cases where the court may feel free to depart from such a rule, ”Justice Cummings-Edwards noted. He explained that the prosecution considered that this was not a case where the minimum sentence should include the time spent on remand.
“Life imprisonment in itself is indefinite [number] years. And from that how can the trial Judge deduct the minimum time spent? If not for taking that period from the other part of the sentence where the trial said he is not eligible for parole until after serving 30 years. “
Having considered that the principles outlined in the case cited above are not set in stone and the trial Judge has the discretion as to whether or not to impose a fixed sentence, the Court of Appeal found that Justice Barlow did not err given the circumstances of the case.
John Blanchard’s allegation that the trial lawyer was ineligible since he failed to apply for sentencing mitigation was also rejected by the appellate court. Quoting a decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the Court of Appeal stated: “A high standard is required to demonstrate counsel’s incompetence.”
Given the fact that the trial Judge would have considered all the circumstances of the case, and would not have failed to consider mitigating factors, Justice Cummings-Edwards held, “We consider that the trial Judge has discretion in the sentence and appellant [John Blanchard] fortunate that the State accepted the pleas [for manslaughter] given that he was charged with murder in violation of Common Law. ”
“This is a case of three children in a sleeping bed who were beaten to death because they were not to blame themselves. Their father was angry with his wife for not coming home and the front of his frustration seems to have been misdirected [to the children] and tragic too, ”Justice Cummings-Edwards noted.
In the end, the Court of Appeal in dismissing John Blanchard’s appeal held that imposing the three life sentences was fair.