Director of Public Prosecutions Charles Leacock had argued the state’s case against the four convicts.
STATE’S REQUEST IN DRUG APPEAL
Government’s attempts to prevent four convicted drug traffickers from taking their case to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) received a fatal blow today when the country’s highest court shot down the state’s request.
The CCJ today said it would grant the four Guyanese, Omwattie Persaud, Lemme Campbell, Gavin Greene and Rohan Rambarran leave to challenge the local Court of Appeal’s decision to dismiss their appeal on the grounds that they had given notice three weeks after their conviction instead of after the sentencing date.
The regional court said it wanted to clarify this matter, as well as the local appellate court’s decision not to entertain applications from the convicts for an extension of time to lodge their appeal because it had no jurisdiction to hear those applications.
The four men were found guilty in 2009 and sentenced to concurrent jail terms of between 15 and 30 years. They gave notice of appeal three weeks after their convictions and, in dismissing the appeal, the Barbados appellate court ruled on April 5, 2015 that the notices had been filed on the wrong date.
The state attempted to block their appeal to the CCJ on the same grounds, but in handing down their judgment from Trinidad via video conference today, the regional jurists said they disagreed with the main reasons advanced for not wanting the CCJ to hear the convicts’ appeal.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Charles Leacock, Principal Crown Counsel Anthony Blackman and attorneys for the prisoners gathered in a special room at the Supreme Court in Bridgetown for the ruling which was delivered by Justice Nelson on behalf of colleagues Justices Wit and Hayton.
”We think that the issue whether the time for appealing against a conviction . . . runs from the date of conviction or the date of sentence is crucial for proper functioning of the administration of criminal justice in Barbados, and therefore, a point of law of great public importance which needs to be settled in Barbados by the authoritative ruling of a fuller Bench of this court,” Justice Nelson said.
He said the CCJ also needed to answer once and for all, the question as to if the time for appealing against the conviction did not run from the date of sentence, as asserted by the applicants . . .”there is a further point of law that needs to be fully dcecided by an expanded panel of this Court”.
”The applicants’ appeals against conviction having been dismissed as being out of time; was the Court of Appeal correct to hold that it could not hear applications from the applicants . . . for an extension of time to appeal against conviction because it had no jurisdiction to hear such applications which, in any event, were an abuse of process?” asked the regional court.
“We grant special leave to cover these points only. We also grant leave to the applicants (other than Rohan Rambarran) to appeal as poor persons,” the judgement added.
The CCJ has set November 9 to hear submissions on the appeals. (EJ)