A police constable who has been on interdiction since last September pending the outcome of criminal charges was the recipient of bad news today, when Chief Magistrate Ann Marie Smith summed up the evidence at the conclusion of his trial and announced a guilty verdict before sentencing him to prison.
PC Ronald Sutherland, 29, who has been facing charges of aggravated assault with a machete, wounding and use of threatening words, was sentenced to two years imprisonment each for the aggravated assault and wounding charges and two months for the use of threatening words charge.
The sentences are to run concurrently, which means that he will spend two years and two months in prison.
Sutherland’s legal troubles stem from his actions on the night of September 26, 2013, when he returned home and began beating his common-law wife, Tanisha Ortiz, who had to run out of their Police Street home.
Ortiz reported the incident to police and Sutherland was charged with the offenses on October 18, 2013.
In court, Ortiz testified that Sutherland came home angry because she was not answering his phone calls. She said that the reason for her lack of response was that her phone had gone dead. Sutherland, she said, stoned her with the phone charger, then beat her up and chopped at her head with a rusty machete, after which he threatened her, telling her: “Ah wah move out a this house tonight, bitch, but first ah wah kill you before I move.”
Ortiz also testified that Sutherland punched her in her head and face, then dragged her out of the house and threw her in the nearby drain.
In his defense, Sutherland claimed that he never laid a hand on Ortiz. He told the court that on the night of the incident, when he got home, she was acting strange, and that she smelled of alcohol, as if though she was intoxicated. She suddenly ran out of the house, he said, and he chased her and tried to get her back into the house.
That was when Ortiz’s parents intervened, Sutherland testified, so he backed down and allowed her stepfather to pick her up and take her back into the house.
At this time, however, the traumatized Ortiz was bleeding from injuries she had sustained. She had abrasions and swellings to her face and her knees were scraped and bruised.
When she was taken to see a doctor, her injuries were classified as wounding. At the trial, the doctor’s findings were admitted into the prosecution’s evidence against Sutherland.
Southerland was defended by attorney Mark Williams, who attempted to make an issue of the fact that Ortiz never screamed out for help when she was being beaten.
In summarizing the evidence presented during the trial, however, the Chief Magistrate said that there were three aggravating factors that she would have to take into consideration. The first is that Sutherland is a police officer, and that the attack occurred upon a helpless woman, and that their children were present at the time the beating occurred. (Ortiz and Sutherland are the parents of two children.)
Smith told Sutherland that she was also taking into consideration his only mitigating factor, that he had no previous conviction for any violent offense.
The Chief Magistrate told Sutherland that while there were some inconsistencies and discrepancies during the trial, when she viewed them carefully, they still did not take away from the prosecution’s case and in her view, the prosecutor, Donelle Hawke, had proved all the elements of the charges.
The doctor’s medical report which was tendered into evidence confirmed the description the victim, Ortiz, had given in her testimony, of the injuries she sustained during the beating she had suffered.
Smith said that she did not find Ortiz’s failure to call out for help immediately as something strange, because of the fact that their children were present and were sleeping, and also said that Ortiz had testified that Sutherland covered her mouth at one point so she could not scream.
Smith said she also believed the testimony of Ortiz’s mother and stepfather, who testified to what they saw and heard prior to them going outside and finding her sitting in a pool of mud.
Smith also noted that Sutherland had been smiling constantly in court, and that he showed very little respect for the court process.