The Bombay High Court on Friday awarded ten years rigorous imprisonment to convict Samson D’Souza a day after he was found guilty of culpable homicide, drugging and sexually assaulting British teenager Scarlett Keeling at Goa’s Anjuna beach in February 2008.
D’Souza and Placido Carvalho were both accused of the crime and an eight-year-long trial in a Goa Children’s Court had culminated with both of them being acquitted.
On Wednesday, a bench of Justices R D Dhanuka and Prithviraj Chavan overturned the trial court order acquitting D’Souza and convicted him under sections 328 (causing hurt by means of poison), 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 304 (ii) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 201 (destruction of evidence) of Indian Penal Code and Section 8(II) (grave sexual assault) of Goa Children’s Act. The HC however, upheld the acquittal of Carvalho.
D’Souza broke down after the sentencing and applied for time to surrender and to appeal before the Supreme Court, which was objected to by the prosecution and rejected by the court.
During the trial, his lawyer, Shailendra Bhobe, pushed for leniency saying his client was the sole earning member of his family and that he had already served a six-and-a-half months in prison, during the course of the investigation. Bhobe added that his client had, “no other criminal record in the past or in the eleven years the trial was in progress or any other blemishes in his record”. Bhobe also pleaded that the bench take the case as a “matter of commission” claiming that D’Souza’s “nature of crime was not harsh or gruesome or cruel”.
At this point, Justice Chavan said, “that part is over. Please only tell us the part where the quantum of sentence is to be decided.”
Prosecution lawyer Ejaz Khan, in turn, said, “D’Souza was a waiter then. When he saw the young girl in such a state, he should have acted as an adult. Instead, the accused gave her drugs, morphine and liquor, and left her to die without informing anyone. He did not co-operate during the time of investigation. His conduct reflects his mindset. Under Section 8(II) we are asking for life imprisonment as it involves a child, and his act of sexually assaulting is grave…”
Lawyer Vikram Verma, who represented Scarlett’s mother Fiona, was allowed to speak at this point despite the defence lawyer’s objections. “The world over child abuse and paedophilia is taken very seriously,” he told the bench. “In this case, reform is not possible,” he reiterated.
After the judgment was pronounced, Fiona, speaking to a section of reporters said she was happy with the punishment but hoped “he stays inside for that long”, said a BBC report.