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The State v. Andrew Valmond

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Court/Judicial body: Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, High Court of Justice (Criminal)
Date: May 27, 2010 CRC
Provisions: Article 34: Sexual exploitation
Domestic provisions: Sexual Offences Act No. 1 of 1998 (Dominica) (Section 7(1): Sexual intercourse with a person under fourteen)

Case summary

Background: Andrew Valmod was found guilty by a jury for unlawful sexual intercourse with his stepdaughter, who was under age 14, in violation of Section 7(1) of Dominica’s Sexual Offences Act No. 1 of 1998.  The offence carried a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment and, following the Defendant’s conviction, the High Court of Justice (Criminal) convened to determine the appropriate sentence for Valmond.

Issue and resolution: Sexual exploitation; violence against children. The Court sentenced Valmond to 8 years in prison given the gravity of perpetrating sexual violence against children.

Court reasoning: In determining the Valmond’s sentence, the Court took into account the circumstances of the offence, including aggravating and mitigating factors, and the fact that Valmond had been imprisoned while awaiting his sentencing for over one year. The Court considered the main aggravating factors to be Valmond’s breach of trust in his father-daughter relationship with the victim and the fact that his step-daughter was of a young age. The Court weighed these factors against the only mitigating factor in the Defendant’s favor, which was that the Defendant had a clean record with no prior convictions recorded against him. The Court also noted its concern with the incidence of sexual abuse by stepfathers and other family members in the Caribbean and Dominica, and further stated that it is the obligation of the courts to do everything possible to discourage the sexual exploitation of children in line with national laws and international instruments, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Excerpt citing CRC and other relevant human rights [12] In Hess and Nguyen [Supreme Court of Canada [1990]2 SCR 906], McLachlin J explained the objective of creating the offence of statutory rape and the importance of punishment for its contravention in the following paragraphs of her judgment: para 100 ” …It is not an exaggeration to say that the offence of “statutory rape”, as it was commonly referred to, is embedded in our social consciousness. … para 101 …It has two aspects. The first is the protection of female children from the harms which may result from premature sexual intercourse and pregnancy. The second is the protection of society from the impact of the social problems which sexual intercourse with children may produce. … Para 103. … The protection of children from the evils of intercourse is multi-faceted and so obvious as not to require formal demonstration. Children merit this protection for three primary reasons. The first is the need to protect them from the consequences of pregnancies with which they are ill-equipped to deal from the physical, emotional and economic point of view. The second is the need to protect them from the grave physical and emotional harm which may result from sexual intercourse at such an early age. The third is the need to protect them from exploitation by those who might seek to use them for prostitution and related nefarious purposes. para 104. Each of these reasons to protect against premature sexual intercourse is reflected in corresponding social problems. Juvenile pregnancies adversely affect both family and society. … The physical and emotional trauma inflicted on children through premature sexual intercourse is reflected in increased medical and social costs and decreased productivity…” [14] The above stated approach is in keeping with the state’s obligation under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, which Dominica ratified on 13 March 1991. Article 34 of the Convention provides that: “State Parties undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.” [15] The Sexual Offences Act [10 Act no.1 of 1998 Laws of Dominica], Section 7(1) provides the necessary legislative protection for the vulnerable and the punishment for adults who abuse young children. It is for the courts to properly enforce the seriousness of the offence by imposing appropriate punishment.

CRIN comments: CRIN believes this decision is consistent with the CRC in that all States Parties to the convention have a duty to prohibit all forms of violence against children, including sexual exploitation as under Article 34 of the Convention. For this prohibition to be meaningful, these laws must also be enforced, and those found to have violated these laws must be given appropriate sentences.

Citation: The State v. Andrew Valmond, High Court of Justice (Criminal) in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (Dominica), DOMHCR 2010/0009 (27 May 2010; filed 29 Sept. 2010).

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