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Ray Charlton gets suspended sentence for sexual assault

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Conviction upheld: Ray Charlton, right, emerges from the Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building after his sentencing in Magistrates’ Court yesterday (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A former One Bermuda Alliance election candidate and chairman of West End Development Corporation, who was convicted of sexual assault, has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Raymond Charlton, 63, was found guilty in March 2022 of the assault on a 20-year-old woman.

Charlton, from Sandys, had denied making lewd comments to the victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, and grabbing her buttocks on August 22, 2018, at her home in Sandys.

He later appealed the verdict, claiming that a cocktail of cannabis and medication had induced a “prolonged and moderately severe episode of mania without psychotic symptoms”. That appeal was thrown out last month.

Before sentencing yesterday, defence lawyer Elizabeth Christopher told Magistrates’ Court that the episode had had a devastating effect on her client and his family.

She said that the offence was at the lower end of the scale and that Charlton was of previous good character who had since been getting treatment at the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute.

She told magistrate Craig Attridge: “I find him very attuned to his mental health and these court proceedings have answered a lot of questions that have been of concern to him and his wife.”

Ms Christopher added that Charlton had planned to retire to the United States and the entry of a conviction “would put paid to a life’s work”.

Recommending that Charlton be given a conditional discharge, Ms Christopher said: “Although he has been found guilty, his level of culpability is low. The public interest would not be advanced by a conviction.”

Shaunte Simons-Fox, for the prosecution, had submitted the Crown’s sentencing recommendations to the court in writing earlier. In court she dismissed Ms Christopher’s call for a conditional discharge as “wholly inappropriate”.

Sentencing Charlton, Mr Attridge said that while the offence was at the lower end of the spectrum, it caused the victim a significant amount of distress.

“The anxiety which was caused to the victim led to her relocating from one end of the island to the other, which was still so small that she could never guarantee that she would not find herself in the presence of the defendant,” he said.

Ray Charlton with family members in support after sentencing (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

“She did, almost two years after the offence, and it still caused the victim fear and stress.

“This may have seemed like a small act, but one thing can change someone a lot and leave them feeling unsafe in their home.”

Mr Attridge also noted Charlton’s change in defence when he appealed against his conviction to the Supreme Court.

“At trial he sought to suggest in some detail that the victim misunderstood his perfectly innocent actions and expressly denied the assault,” he said.

“On appeal, it appears he accepted his offending behaviour while maintaining that it resulted from a state of involuntary intoxication, which was rejected by the court above.”

However, the judge noted that the defendant had no previous convictions and had taken steps to address mental health issues which may have contributed to the offence.

In all the circumstances, Mr Attridge said, the offence merited a three-month prison sentence, but that the sentence should be suspended for one year.

He also placed Charlton on one-year probation, with conditions including that he continue to go through any recommended treatment programmes.

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