Regional court commutes the sentences of two bajans convicted of killing a 15-year-old schoolmate

One former convict is out of prison, while another will be released in another five months, after the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) commuted their sentences for the killing of a 15-year-old in October 2006 when they were schoolboys.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) today ruled that Jeffrey Ray Burton should have been sentenced to five years in prison rather than seven, while Kemar Anderson Nurse should have only spent three years in jail instead of five.

Nurse was released several weeks ago on the basis that  he had already served the required time.

The Trinidadian-based court built its decision on the Romeo Hall v R ruling that full credit should be given to the accused for time spent on remand.

“The trial judge treated the time spent on remand as a factor in mitigation and only gave partial credit owing to what he called an ‘in-built gestation period’ of two years.   The Court found that it was wrong to have given no credit for the two-year ‘gestation period’,” the justices stated in their judgment released today.

Burton, who was 15-years-old at the time, and Nurse, who was 17, were convicted of manslaughter following the death of Averell Wright, a week after a dispute over a cellular phone.

The three got in to a fight on a school bus that spilled onto the streets at which time Burton drew a knife from     his schoolbag and stabbed Wright in the chest.

When they were sentenced in January 2011, the judge indicated that he had taken into consideration the time they had spent on remand.

However, the duo took their case to the Court of Appeal, stating their sentences were excessive. Their appeals were dismissed.

“Romeo Hall did not go on to spell out what happens to the people who were sentenced before Romeo Hall but have filed appeals and their appeals are now being heard as in the case of Burton and Nurse. Our position was that if you are before a competent court, then Romeo Hall must be applied,” explained Angella Mitchell-Gittens, one of Burton’s attorneys.

“What this judgement does is apply the full discount on the time spent on remand to persons who are before a competent court at this time.

“Criminal lawyers have been arguing this now for some time and we are just happy that the CCJ has made it so that   it must now be applied.

“We feel some justification that the CCJ has clarified the point of law that seems to have been causing some confusion for the local court of appeal.”

Aside from Mitchell-Gittens, Burton was represented by Andrew Pilgrim, QC, Kristin Turton and Lesley Cargill, while Nurse was represented by Ralph Thorne, QC, and Mechelle Forde.

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