Pilgrim hails CCJ ruling that set murder convicts free

One of this island’s leading defence attorneys expects that more of the guilty will be convicted and the innocent will go free as a result of a recent ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which ordered the release of two convicted Barbadian killers.

Queen’s Counsel Andrew Pilgrim, who represented Vincent Edwards and Richard Haynes in a murder case for the 2006 killing of Damien Alleyne, told Barbados TODAY Wednesday evening that the ruling by this country’s highest court would also force police officers to gather more sound evidence.

“The absence of a ruling to this effect has been a significant problem for us over the last 20, 30 years. What it meant was that police could verbal an accused . . . that is, put an oral statement in the mouth of an accused and lock him up based on that; juries would be told that is enough,” Pilgrim said, adding that for a long time the local court of appeal and high court judges had felt that was the way to go.

“This case makes it clear that you will require more than just a verbal. The case also points investigations in the direction of thorough examination of evidence, but more importantly point them in the direction and use of technology to record confessions, so you don’t get this thing of ‘he say, she say’ being the basis of a trial,” the top defence lawyer noted.

He described the CCJ decision as extremely important “in that it is going to cause evidence to improve, it will protect good police officers and it will lead to the guilty being convicted”.

Earlier this week, the Trinidad and Tobago-based CCJ found that Edwards and Haynes’ convictions could not be upheld due to the presentation of insufficient evidence by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The only evidence linking the appellants to the murder was their alleged oral confessions made in separate interviews with officers of the Royal Barbados Police Force while at the Glebe Police Station on July 19, 2007, almost a year after Alleyne’s murder.

As such, Pilgrim had argued that there was no case for his clients to answer, and after considering his argument, Justice Winston Anderson ruled that the two men should be allowed be walk free.

In a concurring judgment, Justice Adrian Saunders also acknowledged that prior to the Evidence Act, an accused person could be convicted solely on an alleged oral confession, provided that the jury was warned that such a conviction may be unsafe.

However, the CCJ pointed out that the purpose of the Evidence Act, which was passed by the Parliament of Barbados in 1994, was “to reform the law relating to evidence in proceedings in courts” and to apply “standards that are more stringent than the common law, [compel] the judiciary to be guided by fresh approaches and [require] the executive to make available to the police new technologies”.

Therefore, the evidence against Edwards and Haynes had to be reliable, especially given that the punishment on the statute books in Barbados for murder was death, it said.

“Based on the spirit of the Evidence Act, alleged confessions made while in police custody could only meet this standard where it was supported by sound or video recordings of or by some other independent evidence linking the accused to the offence. For example, evidence from a witness other than another police officer or some form of forensic evidence (e.g. DNA or fingerprint). In this case, there was no other evidence and as such the judge should have dismissed the case against the appellants,” the Trinidad-based court said.

Saunders was also of the view that even if the evidence were sufficient, the judge did not properly warn the jury in accordance with the Act.

Back in November 2015, the CCJ had rejected an earlier application filed on behalf of the two accused men and ordered that their case be sent back to the Barbados Court of Appeal. At the time, Edwards and Haynes, who were convicted of murder in June 2013 and sentenced to death, were challenging the constitutionality of the mandatory death penalty, but the CCJ had sent the matter back to the Barbados Court of Appeal for a determination of how that issue should be resolved.

12 Responses to Pilgrim hails CCJ ruling that set murder convicts free

  1. straight talk July 27, 2017 at 12:16 am

    That is why this country is the way it is and every week youngters in Barbados going prison for murder with a broad smile on their faces cause they already know what would be thee outcome.

  2. Hewers of wood July 27, 2017 at 5:06 am

    This is why a person is innocent until PROVEN guilty. This is also why these law and order heavy roller guys are paid thousands to keep the innocent in jail and the guilty out of jail.

  3. nanci July 27, 2017 at 5:55 am

    he lately presenting himself in high profile cases like murder. I wonder if he really care about the victims or the people he represent. Its all about lining his pockets. They say lawyers and attorneys are snakes anyway. I dont believe a word out their mouths.

  4. Sue Donym July 27, 2017 at 7:09 am

    Really shouldn’t blame Mr Pilgrim and his clients for doing what the law allows.
    We can query why local officials have not insisted on making certain that evidence can be taken and withstand credibility tests. Why have interrogation facilities not had electronic audio and video equipment installed, maintained and available. Don’t we look rather stupid in 2017 not having the ability that almost every teenager has – to record and reproduce evidence of an occurrence? Ironically Mr Pilgrim and some other clients will likely use technology to show up the police yet again.

    We won’t like the feeling that those recently set free might have done the deed, but we can’t be happy that the case was lost in such an embarrassingly easy way. Police bodycams, surveillance equipment, recorded interrogations, forensic pathologist… we know what has to be done.

    • Leroy July 27, 2017 at 9:33 am

      “We won’t like the feeling that those recently set free might have done the deed”

      You failed to give the flip side.

      Just as much as we dont like the feeling that those sentenced to death might have NOT done the deed.
      In any event we have to blame the leaders in our country for this injustice(particularly AG,DPP the Courts & Parliament).

      • Sue Donym July 27, 2017 at 9:48 am

        The CCJ has already taken care of the flip side. My point was, whether we like the outcome (with any of its implied possibilities) or not, we have to deal with the reality of what must be done and yes, to hold those accountable who should have put the required systems in place. We agree.

  5. Carson C Cadogan July 27, 2017 at 8:49 am

    Good work, Andrew.

  6. Alvin Morris July 27, 2017 at 11:20 am

    The job of a lawyer is to represent his client, any good lawyer will try to get his client off by any means necessary, regardless of his personal opinion.

  7. Alex Alleyne July 27, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    Will he now try to sue the CROWN?………. TAX PAYERS MONEY flowing.

  8. Alex Alleyne July 27, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    Heard anything from our AG on this ruling as yet, or as per usual ……..he don’t have a clue.

  9. hcalndre July 27, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    The law courts in Barbados are 50 years behind, you read a person accused for a crimes other than a traffic, is taken to the traffic court, police taking out a little note book from his/her back pocket on the witness stand like it was bought from Woolworth`s reading evidenced from it. Taking an accused to some back room in the precinct and interrogate him/her, write whatever they want in the little book, then force the accused to sign it. It`s time to make it law where evidence and confessions are shone in the courts via video to the jurors and all cases should be tried in public, even divorces. What is the CJ doing? I thought by now he would have Barbados` courts on a different path other than the old outdated colonial system.

  10. Joy July 27, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    After the hail of bullets in Deacons celebrating the release of these men are you all still convinced that this was the best thing for Barbados?
    The police worked to protect the society including the persons who commented above and you’re too blind to see.

    When the thugs are on your doorstep call Pilgrim to start a private prosecution!


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