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Lesser count

Trevor Yearwood

Lesser count

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Johan Bjerkhamn no longer has to answer a manslaughter charge in connection with the shooting death of his 11-year-old son Luke last year.
Instead, the 41-year-old businessman of Leslie Gardens, Maynards, St Peter, faces a lesser charge that he “willfully exposed” a child in his custody “in a manner likely to cause injury to his health”.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Charles Leacock, QC, announced withdrawal of the manslaughter charge yesterday morning when Bjerkhamn appeared in the Holetown Magistrates’ Court before Magistrate Barbara Cooke-Alleyne.
Leacock, who outlined the facts of the case, said there was no evidence pointing to reckless endangering of life or gross negligence that would substantiate a manslaughter charge.
According to police reports, Bjerkhamn, a gun dealer, was shot in the left hand and his son was hit in the chest, reportedly by the same bullet, when a .380 Glock semi-automatic pistol he was cleaning went off at the St Peter residence April 11, 2010.
Leacock said, however, there was evidence of negligence, and pointed to an admission by Bjerkhamn, in a statement he made, that he honestly thought that the gun was empty.
The charge against Bjerkhamn says in part that “being a person over the age of 16 years and having custody of Luke Bjerkhamn, a child under the age of 16 years, to wit 11 years, (he) wilfully exposed the said child in a manner likely to cause injury to his health”.
Legal sources said the new charge means that the outcome of the case would be “no imprisonment”, with one option being probation.
The DPP said Bjerkhamn had no previous convictions or police record. He told the court the data pointed to a caring father who had to live with the tragic death of his son.
He read a statement Bjerkhamn submitted to police on April 23, 2010, in which the businessman spoke of the “terrible” and “tragic” accident and of his efforts to keep his son alive on their way to the Sandy Crest medical centre.
“I will mourn his loss until my dying day,” Bjerkhamn was quoted as saying.
Queen’s Counsel Sir Richard Cheltenham, in association with attorney-at-law Andrew Pilgrim, is representing Bjerkhamn. Sir Richard described the DPP’s presentation as a “full and accurate account”.
He said he would be calling two witnesses – his client’s consultant psychiatrist Dr Cyrilene Bryce, and a “character witness”. Bryce was in court, but the character witness was unavailable.
Both are expected to give evidence Thursday, when the hearing continues.
Meantime, Bjerkhamn remains on bail.

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