A Clarendon pastor has lost his bid to overturn his 2015 conviction for raping a 15-year-old female congregant at his church on Chapelton Road in May Pen, Clarendon almost 10 years ago.
However, the clergyman, Oraine Ellis, who was sentenced to 20 years behind bars, scored a minor victory after the Court of Appeal reduced the time for him to become eligible for parole consideration, which is now set at 13 years and 11 months.
In its written judgment published on Friday, the Court of Appeal said Ellis’ conviction stemmed from an incident that occurred at his church on Monday, April 30, 2012.
It was stated that the teenager went to the church to seek assistance, but was held by Ellis against her will and raped twice in his office.
She subsequently managed to escape the church premises and inform a family friend, who in turn informed the child’s family members.
The pastor was later apprehended by residents, and was tied up and handed over to the police.
At his trial, Ellis, who gave an unworn statement from the dock, denied having sexual intercourse with the teenager. He contended that after providing counselling to her, she left his office at the church.
The jury, however, did not believe his account, and found him guilty.
Dissatisfied with his conviction and subsequent sentence, Ellis appealed, citing several grounds, ranging from there being lack of evidence to arrive at the jury’s decision, to the trial being ‘unfair’. He also claimed, through his attorney, that the sentence was incorrect.
“The main contention of the appellant… is that a sample of his deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) was taken from him, and a DNA test was conducted, but the crown had failed to put those results into evidence,” the appeal judgment said.
But the panel of Court of Appeal judges, comprising Justice Paulette Williams, Justice Vivienne Harris, and Justice Kissock Laing, ruled that the DNA evidence was disclosed to the defence and could have been used if the accused or his legal representative wished.
In relation to the challenge that his sentence was arrived at due to an incorrect procedure by the High Court judge, the Appeal Court judges admitted that while there were flaws in the sentencing process, the Court of Appeal could apply its own sentencing process.
Still, the judges argued that there were several aggravating factors against a sentence reduction.
“The betrayal of trust by the appellant, being a 32-year-old pastor who used his position to take advantage of the access he had to SE (the victim),” was one of the aggravating factors cited by the Appeal Court panel.
Additionally, the court said the victim was “a virgin at the time of the offence”, and the pastor had a previous conviction for carnal abuse, for which he received a custodial sentence of four years.
Further, the judges said the offence was “premeditated”, and “the offence was committed on the compound of the church”.
The Appeal Court, in regards to the mitigating factors, said Ellis was of good character.
“We have also acknowledged the evidence that he is married and is considered by members of the church to be an upstanding member of the community,” the judges wrote.
Given those circumstances, the judges stated that they were of the view that, “in the circumstances of this case and the particular circumstances of this offender, the credit to be given for time spent in pre-trial custody should be deducted from the pre-parole period, and not from the determinative sentence of 20 years.
“Accordingly, we stipulated that the appellant should serve 13 years and 11 months before becoming eligible for parole,” determined the Appeal Court judges.