by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- Medical student cleared of 2 indictable sex charges
- Expected to complete medical school
After 2 hours of deliberation, a jury delivered a not guilty verdict, clearing 23-year-old Joshua Okoronkwo, a Nigerian medical student, of 2 indictable sex charges — Defilement of a Young Female between the ages of 13 and 16, and Permitting the Defilement of a Young Female.
The student was mere weeks away from completing his medical degree when he was charged in July 2018. He had been held at Her Majesty’s Prisons despite 3 attempts at bail until the start of his trial last Monday, which lasted nearly 2 weeks before being acquitted on Wednesday, 27 February 2019.
Due to the sensitive nature of the case, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), through Crown Counsel Brendon La Touche prosecuted the case on behalf of the state.
Okoronkwo’s attorney Derek Sylvester was unable to discuss the trial due to its sensitive nature. “I cannot discuss the case because of the nature of sexual matters. You should not discuss it, but what I can indicate to you is that it was a minor that was involved, and the jury delivered a not guilty verdict.”
Sylvester took objection to what he described as a discriminatory provision of the law where the reasonable belief that the person is above age is not a consideration as a defence. In some jurisdictions in the United States, the intent or state of mind of the offender is irrelevant with regard to whether the accused was led to believe that a person with whom they had sexual relations was above the age of consent, but once the act was committed with someone under the statutory age of consent, he or she has committed the crime.
In other jurisdictions, the reasonable belief that a person is above the statutory age of consent can be used as a defence in a court where the victim was over a certain age but under the age of consent, or where the victim’s own statements led the offender to believe that the accuser is older than their actual age.
“This is a provision that is unfair. Because if you are 19 years or older, you cannot use the reasonable belief provision that you believe that the person is above the age of consent, which to my mind is unfair… [for example] a scenario: you went to a party, you meet a young lady, she told you that she’s above age, you have sexual intercourse. It is not a defence that she told you she was above age, for someone who is above the age of 19,” said Sylvester.
During the trial, prosecution witnesses called to the stand included 1 doctor, 3 police officers, the mother of the complainant and the complainant herself.
Sylvester did not allow his client to be interviewed nor have his picture taken, a request supported by his family, who exited the court unnoticed. Okoronkwo is expected to complete medical school.