A 33-year-old man who was found guilty on Tuesday of beating his mother to death in 2007 has been sentenced to serve just over four months in prison.
High Court judge Justice Devan Rampersad imposed the sentence on Vishal Maharaj on Friday at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain.
Although the judge said the appropriate sentence for the crime was 20 years’ imprisonment, when deductions were made for the time Maharaj had already spent behind bars, his previously clean criminal record and his early intention to plead guilty to manslaughter, that 20-year sentence was reduced to four months and 14 days.
On Tuesday evening, Maharaj, who was charged with murder, was found guilty by a 12-member jury of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
He had been in custody since July 2007, after he beat his mother, Rampattie Maharaj with a baton during an argument at the family’s home in East Trinidad.
At yesterday’s hearing, criminal defence attorney Frank Peterson submitted that his client always had the intention of pleading guilty to manslaughter but this was rejected by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Based on this, Peterson said he was of the opinion that Maharaj should be awarded the full one-third discount that persons who plead guilty to crimes are afforded.
He stated that based on the facts of the matter, his client should be sentenced to no more than 15 years’ hard labour. If that sentence was passed, he pointed out that five years would have to be deducted. And when the 12 years and four months he had already been behind bars was also deducted, it meant that Maharaj have to immediately walk free since he would have already been in prison for more than the remaining ten years of his sentence.
But State prosecutor Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal, said in her view, Maharaj should be sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.
There were several aggravating factors she said, including that the victim was Maharaj’s mother and that the crime had taken place in full view of Maharaj’s 17-year-old step-sister.
Following the submissions, the judge agreed with Dougdeen-Jaglal that the appropriate sentence was 20 years’ imprisonment.
From that sentence, one year was deducted for his previously clean criminal record leaving a sentence of 19 years. When the one-third discount was granted and the court took into consideration the time Maharaj had already been in prison, it left a sentence of four months and 14 days.