Lawyer hopes Church will forgive Cathedral Killers

Francis Phillip and Kim John have pleaded guilty to Manslaughter.

Francis Phillip and Kim John have pleaded guilty to Manslaughter.

As one of the biggest cases in St Lucia nears its end, the lawyer appointed to represent one of the accused is reflecting on how the nation can now heal.
On the last day of the year in 2000 two men walked into the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and began to set worshippers on fire. By the end of the ordeal Sister Theresa Egan had been bludgeoned to death and Father Charles Gaillard was left in critical condition at hospital. A few months later he died.
After a lengthy case and two appeals, Francis Phillip and Kim John, the men charged with causing the death of the nun and priest, have 13 years later pleaded guilty to manslaughter. This means that the two men have admitted to causing death by unlawful harm; with the absence of intent. The final stage of the case is the sentencing hearing which was scheduled to take place on Wednesday this week.
Speaking with the STAR yesterday, lawyer Al Elliot, who represents Kim John explained that the matter was adjourned in order for the defence to review some of the facts of the case submitted by the Director of Public Prosecutions Victoria Charles-Clarke. Lawyer Anthony Alcide represents the other defendant, Francis Phillip.
“The DPP presented a set of facts that she would be relying on for the sentencing and those facts have to be accepted by the defence before we can proceed. The facts are to be accepted as part of the record of the court,” Elliot explained.
If there is any dispute over the facts of the case, Elliot explains there will be a hearing to review. The case was adjourned to February 27.
Referring to the sentencing, Elliot explained that this decision is entirely up to the judge. He noted that for a Manslaughter charge the the maximum sentence is life in prison.
“All we can do is make submissions as to what we would like our sentencing to be based on the facts of the case and the plea,” he said.
For his part the lawyer said that he treats every case as high profile and he was not concerned with the public view of his client.
“I have a duty to my client whoever it is. Especially when the alleged offence is so serious, it is important regardless of who my
client is, that I take my duty seriously and ensure their rights are protected. It doesn’t matter how the public sees it.”
Elliot went on to admit that he felt that “St Lucia needed a conclusion to this matter.”
“It has been 13 years now and St Lucia on the whole needs some closure to this. Both the defendants’ and the victims’ families need closure. I would hate to see it drag on unnecessarily. We need to all consider both sides. What happened was more than unfortunate, unfortunate is not even the right word . . . hopefully we can move
past . . .”
He added that the Church needed to take the lead: “This affected a religious community more than anything else. It affected St Lucia but it also affected a religious community directly. A religious community that speaks to Christian virtues. That is the same religious group that would say that we are to forgive and forget and move on and I am hoping that at some point people are able to do so. They pleaded guilty and I am hoping that the religious community that is affected can move on.”
Elliot said he knew he was asking a lot.
“It sounds like a tall order but that is what Christ has asked the Christians to do. I think there is a lot of resentment and understandably so and like I have said before Kim John and Francis Phillip admitted certain things and there is resentment to the admission but at the same time, at what point do we start to move on?”
He went on: “ Even the Church has been part of all kinds of atrocities and they have asked mankind to forgive them. We had the same Catholic Church involved in sex scandals with young boys. They want us to forgive that and move and we should. And at some point even they should forgive Kim John and Francis Phillip. St Lucia as a society would be better off not harbouring feelings of ill will.”
The Church has yet to release a statement on the latest developments in the case.

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