Battered wife gets lenient sentence in manslaughter case
Guyana Chronicle
October 10, 2002

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SHONETTE Gardener, 28, who said she unlawfully killed her reputed husband Eucliff Anthony Ridley while attempting to evade a violent attack by him, was yesterday sentenced to 18 months in jail.

Justice William Ramlall said he showed her leniency for the May 31, 2000 crime, after taking into consideration the circumstances of the case for the Prosecution and the Defence, as well as a report on the woman’s background by Assistant Chief Probation and Family Welfare Officer L. Woodruff.

Mother-of-three Gardener had previously pleaded guilty to the manslaughter at the Demerara Assizes, saying the victim brutalised her from time to time.

The prisoner said, on the fateful day, Ridley had attacked her with a knife and she retaliated with a hammer, causing him to die of a fractured skull.

Before sentencing Gardener, Justice Ramlall told her she should consider herself very lucky that the Court, as well, accepted her plea of not guilty to murder but guilty to the lesser count.

The judge observed that the confession statement made by the convict does not vary from the facts as presented by the State Prosecutor and Defence Counsel.

Justice Ramlall pointed out that, if she was convicted of murder, Gardener would have been condemned to death.

But he said he appreciated, from the probation report and the depositions, that her reputed husband had inflicted a high degree of domestic violence and abuse on her before his death.

"But that, by itself, does not justify the action to take his life. Your actions were far in excess of the force reasonably necessary to have repelled the attack on you.

"You may have been provoked at the use of domestic violence over a period of time. I am taking that circumstance into consideration. I shall also take into account what your lawyer had said. But I cannot give you a tap on the shoulder and say that, because of the domestic violence you were subjected to, you had a right to kill.

“That would be wrong and would be sending the wrong message to persons who are minded to commit similar offences,” Justice Ramlall told Gardener before pronouncing sentence and telling her to reflect on her action while in prison.

The judge expressed the hope the prisoner would use the time she is incarcerated to upgrade her skills and education so that, when she is released, she would be useful to her children and society as a whole.

Earlier, Woodruff said his investigations confirmed that Gardener was always subjected to assaults with weapons by Ridley and concerned neighbours admitted they would intervene on many occasions to rescue her.

The investigator said many reports were made at Sparendaam Police Station and the Prashad Nagar outpost and, as a result, in 1999, Ridley was convicted of felonious wounding, bonded for two years and ordered to pay Gardener $100,000 compensation.

Woodruff attested that Gardener has been the subject of constant abuse and said her body bears numerous scars as testimony to such incidents.

The abused woman would leave the home but her pattern of returning was symptomatic of victims of domestic violence who find it difficult to leave the relationship and fend for themselves, the Court was told.

Woodruff also said that, during interviews, Gardener appeared penitent and contrite and claimed she regrets the result of her impulsive, defensive actions which led to her children now being fatherless.