Guyana Chronicle:–  A unanimous verdict by a 12-member mixed jury resulted in Pastor Andrew Hannibale being sentenced to 40 years in jail for raping a child.

Presiding Judge Sandil Kissoon after listening to Defence Counsel Arun Gossai, State Prosecutrix Ms Tuanna Hardy and the convict, said parole will not be possible until a period of thirty years of imprisonment have been served.

“The victim has been grossly violated in every conceivable way. She had to face criticisms and publicity to take the stand and recount the event which led to you being before me,” the Judge remarked to Andrew Hannible as he stood in the dock, with tears streaming down his face.

Moments earlier, Hannibale in his address to the Court said, “Your Honour and members of the Jury. How sorry I am to find myself in such a situation, and experiencing such a decision as a community leader and as a pastor for over twenty nine years. I never thought this day would come. I am very sorry. It is very painful. I know the community has lost its confidence in the church because of the expectations of me. I will abide by the jury decision. All I ask for is leniency, so I can serve the time and resume back to society as a brand new man.”

He further stated: ”I want to say to the victim and family, how sorry I am . I know you are hurt. I pray you forgive me, as you go on with your life. Madame Prosecutor, I have no grievance against you. You have done your job. Whatever is the decision of this court I will abide,” concluded Hannibale.

Hardy noted that the now convicted man had betrayed that position of trust. “He breached that trust, Your Honour and he engaged in the acts not just once, but many times. He is a pastor and the Court must reflect on the nature of the offence when considering sentencing.”

In response, the Judge brought to fore, the harsh reality of the matter and highlighted the reasons raised by defence lawyer Arun Gossai who had highlighted the positive influence which Hannibale had on the community and his congregation and also he had made several attempts to show remorse but was rejected.

But Justice Kissoon noted that the very reasons raised by the defence were the very reasons which allowed the victim to be violated. “This act cannot be treated lightly. You are a pastor of a large congregation. A community leader. Persons sought refuge to be nurtured and cared for. This child was without immediate family and you grossly violated her,” said Justice Kissoon to the convicted child rapist.

Hannibale was indicted with rape committed between Friday 29 and 30 January, 2016 in the County of Berbice. According to the facts, a sibling of the virtual complainant awoke and had discovered that the 15-year-old was not in her bed. As a result their guardian was informed and a search was carried out. The teen was seen in an outhouse.

However, responding to questions, she confessed that she was with the pastor. Further, a report was made at the Blairmont Police Station after which the virtual complainant was seen and examined by a medical practitioner who indicated that the child was sexually violated.

In the meantime, after the sentence was handed down, there was loud wailing from female members of Hannibale’s congregation. One woman was seen on her knees with her arms wrapped around the now convicted man as he sat awaiting escorts to the New Amsterdam prison.

(There were tears for convicted child rapist Pastor Andrew Hannibale)