In August 1959, a prominent Nassau physician, Dr. Roland Cumberbatch, was charged with performing an abortion on a 13 year old girl.
A few days later, Gary Wallace, a married, 23 year old, was charged with unlawful carnal knowledge of the 13 year old; as well as, procuring an illegal abortion for a minor.
The two were tried together, as one case, as co-conspirators in procuring an illegal abortion to cover up the antecedent crime of carnal knowledge. Wallace had the additional charge of carnal knowledge. Dr. Cumberbatch had an additional charge of actually performing the abortion.
Gary Wallace met the 13 year old at a children’s party in April 1959. By July 1959, she was several weeks pregnant by him. When the grandparents of the 13 year old, confronted Gary Wallace, he admitted the child was his. They demanded he marry her.
Wallace told the grandparents that he was already married.
In court, Gary Wallace, though married, admitted dating the 13 year old between April and July 1959. Wallace admitted picking her up in his car. He admitted sexual relations. His defence was that she wore lipstick. His defence was that he thought she was older, despite meeting her at a children’s party.
“When the court convened yesterday morning, Wallace gave evidence from the dock, saying how he first met the girl and that she encouraged him to take her for a ride. He admitted dating her on two or three occasions. She always wore lipstick and “had her hair straightened,” he said and that it was a shock to him to learn recently that she was only 14. He said that during their relationship she always acted like a woman and as if she knew what she was doing.” ——The Nassau Guardian, THURSDAY 4th FEBRUARY 1960
Dr. Roland Cumberbatch admitted that the 13 year old came to his office early in July 1959. However, he said, he didn’t physically examine her.
Dr. Cumberbatch denied seeing the 13 year old, in his Elizabeth Avenue office on 25th July 1959, when the girl testified that the abortion took place.
The girl (now 14 years old in 1960 when the case came to trial) said that Gary Wallace arranged with Dr. Roland Cumberbatch to procure the abortion. She described the procedure and the wire used.
Dr. Cumberbatch countered the young girl’s testimony, by saying, that the wire in question was used to clean bottles.
The Defence ATTACKS the Grandmother and the fact that the girl did not have a mother in her life
A rancid sordidness reeked from this 1959 case. It fetored of male privilege and monied intimidation.
In 1959, all juries, in The Bahamas, were still comprised solely of men. This was the case in both the Magistrate and Supreme Courts. No woman would sit on a Bahamas jury until after 1967. One need only imagine the intimidation young terrified children must have felt, having to recall the most heinous crimes perpetrated against them, to a room full of men.
In 1959 as well, laws regarding rape and carnal knowledge of children, under a certain age, say 10, 12, and 14, were still buried under the same burden of proof and allowable defences, as they were in the late 1800s.
In many sexual crimes cases involving the underaged and minors, all it took, to press for a nolle prosequi or an acquittal, was testimony by the perpetrator that the girl appeared older than her age. This was a defence, which was liberally used, and indeed accepted in court.
It is more than a given that a 13 year old school girl, from Bluehill Road, would not have had the presence of mind or indeed the money to visit a private doctor, with an office on Elizabeth Avenue (near Bay Street), in order to procure an abortion. Abortions were very illegal for a start. Either an adult made the complex arrangements and payment for the girl or… equally probable… the said doctor was in the illegal abortion business, and this was widely known to all, hence a 13 year old could just wander in off the streets and demand such services.
The Hon. Eugene Dupuch, representing Gary Wallace and Paul L. Adderley representing Dr. Cumberbatch, managed to have the case put off until the January 1960 sitting of the Supreme Court.
This was to the defence’s advantage, as there were several carnal knowledges cases, on the Supreme Court docket that year.
Other carnal knowledge cases in 1959
Lynden O. Pindling defends a carnal knowledge case from Andros in 1959 involving a 16 year old boy and a 7 year old child.
By putting the Dr. Cumberbatch and married Gary Wallace abortion case off, for at least half a year, gave the defence multiple advantages. First of all, it would’ve get lumped together with a number of rape and carnal knowledges cases already being heard in 1959.
Second advantage was that by the time the 13 year old came to court, she was now 14. 14 sounded better than 13.
Third advantage was that it gave the defence more time to attack the only leverage they had: the girl came from a broken home.
There was no mother in the picture. She lived with her grandparents on Bluehill Road. Her father and stepmother lived in San Salvador. On this point alone… the entire prosecution case collapsed.
Never mind the fact that a horrendous crime had been perpetrated against a child. Or that Dr. Cumberbatch colluded with a married pedophile to perform an abortion, on a child, in order to cover up the crime,… all of that became mere immaterial facts in the case as the trial went on.
The defence would attack the grandmother because she was not present at the birth of her 13 year old granddaughter.
Because the grandmother was not present at the birth, her testimony as to the child’s age was struck out. As the girl’s age could not be verified by the grandmother’s testimony alone, Gary Wallace was acquitted of carnal knowledge. And if Gary Wallace was acquitted, his co-conspirator in procuring the abortion Dr. Roland Cumberbatch was also acquitted.