Two former students of the Five Rivers Government Secondary School, who admitted to murdering a classmate after a friend accused him of sexually assaulting her, almost 13 years ago, have been each sentenced to 33 years in prison.
Roshan Ramkissoon and Danny Seetahal, who were charged with murdering 15-year-old Aleem Ali, formerly of Seecharan Street in Tacarigua, between March 25 and 29, 2007, received the sentences from High Court Judge Gillian Lucky at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain, yesterday afternoon.
The duo was set to go on trial, last year, but was allowed to plead guilty to the offence as the mandatory death penalty for murder is waived in circumstances when it is committed by minors. Both Ramkissoon and Seetahal were a few months short of their 18th birthdays when they killed Ali.
In assessing the appropriate sentence for the duo, Lucky opted to raise the 30-year starting point suggested by State prosecutors to 33 years.
Lucky stated that she took the decision based on the evidence in the case over the heinous nature of the crime including the fact that Ali was lured to the location and begged for his life before being bludgeoned and chopped to death by the then teenagers. She also noted that the duo attempted to conceal their crime by burning Ali’s body.
After applying the mandatory one-third discount for their early guilty pleas and subtracting the 12 years, eight months and 15 days they spent on remand awaiting trial, the duo was left with a sentence of nine years, three months and 15 days.
Lucky then chose to round off the sentences to eight years in prison with hard labour as she factored in evidence over the duo’s rehabilitation whilst in prison.
As they were being sentenced as minors, Lucky ordered that their sentences be reviewed annually but noted that they should not be released until they serve at least half their sentence.
In passing the sentence, Lucky also considered the effect Ali’s murder had on his immediate family including his sisters, who sat in the public gallery side by side with the duo’s relatives.
“There must be justice...Ali is not here but he speaks through his father, mother and what has happened to his family,” Lucky said.
Lucky lamented over the fact that the duo chose to take their female friend’s rape complaint against Ali into their own hands instead of reporting it to a teacher or the police.
“Far too often persons, including young persons, are resorting to violence to resolve issues...you decided to take matters in your own hands,” she said.
Before completing the case, Lucky revealed that another classmate Kerwin Wellington was also involved in Ali’s murder but was granted immunity by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in exchange for testifying against his friends at their trial.
Lucky noted that although he was no longer before the court and did not need to testify, he was still culpable.
“He was just not a silent observer. I hope he has that level of remorse and understanding,” Lucky said, as she addressed one of Wellington’s relatives, who was in court.
Ramkissoon was represented by John Heath, while Trevor Jones and Rebecca Trim-Wright prosecuted.