Strike it out!

CCJ to rule on Barbados’ mandatory death sentence

A senior Trinidadian attorney today argued strongly for the removal of the mandatory death penalty from the statute books of Barbados, deeming it to be “unconstitutional”.

Appearing before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on behalf of two condemned men, senior counsel Douglas Mendez therefore called on the CCJ to exercise the power vested in it as the island’s final court of appeal to make it amend the relevant portions of the Offences Against the Persons Act to conform with Section 11 of the Barbados Constitution which he said prohibits arbitrary laws.

“There isn’t any result to come out of the criminal justice system worse than being punished in excess of your wrongdoing. You can’t by some form of osmosis provide protection that is accorded to one section of the Constitution that the Constitution doesn’t say extends to other sections and that is what we are relying on,” he said.

His comments came on Day 2 of hearings into the appeal brought on behalf of Dwayne Omar Severin who was
sentenced to death for the November 30, 2009 killing of Virgil Barton near his home at Lucas Street, St Philip, and Jabari Sensimania Nervais who was handed the same sentence
for the November 17, 2006 shooting death of former Perseverance Drive, Jackson, St Michael resident Jason Ricardo Burton.

Both men, who have exhausted all domestic grounds for appeal, are making a last ditch effort to have their cases overturned by the CCJ, which is the court of last resorts.

While arguing that the mandatory death penalty is in violation of the island’s international obligations, Mendez, who along with Barbadian Andrew Pilgrim, QC, is representing the condemned men, complained today to the seven-member panel, led by Sir Dennis Byron, that the political directorate appeared to be lacking the will to do so.

“If the legislature wishes to put the mandatory death penalty back on the statute books then they have to do their job. They have to account to the electorate for what they do. They can’t hide, which is what, unfortunately has been happening with the death penalty, and the mandatory death penalty in particular,” Mendez said, while strongly lamenting that “politicians play games”.

“Everybody talks about the death penalty, about carrying it out, then they don’t do it because it goes good with the electorate,” he said.

In response, Principal Crown Counsel Anthony Blackman informed the regional court that the bill to abolish the mandatory death penalty had reached the second reading stage in Parliament.

However, he could not explain why it had not been given final approval.

“Why it is taking so long? We cannot assist this honourable court with the reason why it is taking so long. What we would try to assist this honourable court with, is to remind this honourable court that, based on the Constitution of Barbados, a two-thirds majority is needed for this to pass,” Blackman said.

It was at this point that one of the judges queried why a two-thirds majority was required, suggesting when a “simple majority” would suffice.

However, when asked what was Government’s policy on the mandatory death penalty, Blackman could not provide a credible answer.

“We are unable to assist the court in relation to any policy statement or any definitive policy direction as it relates to that aspect. So I must apologize to this honourable court for not being in a position to give you that information,” he said.

It is now left to the CCJ to issue its decision on the matter.

11 Responses to Strike it out!

  1. Carson C. Cadogan January 25, 2018 at 10:17 pm

    All the CCJ has to do is to overturn the Death sentences which have been imposed by Bajan Courts on Dwayne Omar Severin and Jabari Sensimania Nervais. NOTHING ELSE.

    The Parliament of Barbados and the local Judiciary have to deal with abolishing the Death penalty.

    For the CCJ to “”….. exercise the power vested in it as the island’s final court of appeal to make it amend the relevant portions of the Offences Against the Persons Act to conform with Section 11 of the Barbados Constitution”” is letting the local judiciary and Parliament off the hook.

    That must not happen.

    The Death penalty was to be abolish since 2000. We have an international obligation to do so and it must be done by us not kick the can down the road to the CCJ.

    Belize is a member of Inter American Commission Of Human Rights(IACHR) and its Parliament has abolish the Death penalty. Barbados has to do the same as it gave the assurance to the IACHR.

    17 July 2015

    The last man held on death row in Belize was reprieved on Monday, when the Supreme Court of Belize confirmed that its lone, remaining prisoner under sentence of death, Glenford Baptist, now aged 40, would never be executed. His death sentence has been quashed as it was found to be unconstitutional.

    Baptist, the subject of a forthcoming Channel 5 documentary, had spent more than 13 years “alternating between hope and despair”, not knowing whether he would live or die.

    Baptist was convicted of murder in November 2001 and was sentenced to hang. At the time the death penalty was automatic for homicide offences, although this was replaced a year later by a discretionary regime. The mandatory death penalty has been recognised increasingly worldwide as arbitrary and cruel. Baptist should then have been resentenced by the courts, but he was never afforded the opportunity to have the individual circumstances of his offence, nor any mitigating features considered by a judge and he remained languishing on death row up until this week.

    Executing a person who has been under a sentence of death for more than 5 years has also been recognised as unlawful throughout the Caribbean since 1994. The Privy Council, based in London, Belize’s highest court until the country acceded to the Caribbean Court of Justice, “”

  2. Alex Alleyne January 25, 2018 at 10:44 pm

    Don’t kill them , Just let them ROT in Jail.

    • Mark Rosmar January 26, 2018 at 1:39 pm

      Suppose its a unwarranted premeditated killing of 5 closest members of your family?

      • Atman January 26, 2018 at 4:27 pm

        I agree Mark, those you deserve the death penalty should get it, but the death penalty isn’t warranted in all situations and therefore should not be “mandatory”.

  3. luther thorne January 26, 2018 at 12:50 am


  4. archy perch January 26, 2018 at 5:30 am

    I rally for victims rights

  5. hcalndre January 26, 2018 at 9:16 am

    No executions, then what about life in prison without parole? It must be some kind of punishment for the crime. Keeping them on death row would be a fitting punishment for their crime and before removing them they will have to admit to the act unless they know within themselves that they were wrongfully accused and rather die before admitting to something that they did not do.

  6. Mack January 26, 2018 at 12:14 pm

    Why not appeal to the criminals to stop the killings first.

    If they comply then there will be no need for executions.

    If they don’t comply, there will always be a need for executions.

    You don’t have to be a solomon to understand this.

    The onus is on the killers, they control the whole process.

  7. Ossie Theophilus Moore January 26, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    Ok so de Cat will talk!! THAT IS WE CONSTITUTION!! back deh in TNT ganstas kidnapping, shooting in broad day light, robbing from Sun up till Sun down en we wan’t somthing like dat ? No sirey!! House Iron Bar down ! Peeping out de back door to go to yuh car! No sirey! Ifin we don’t get gallows we get de Cat O Nine to keep we in line! Dat ain’t going down wid Moorey boy!

  8. jrsmith January 26, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    How could we sit back and allow a bunch of clowns in Trinidad to dictate to us what to do , the mistake to leave the Privy Counsel …… The reason why Barbados is so *****d up the selfish attitudes with our people , they only want real justice when the crime effects them other than that , you hear the rubbish comes out………………….
    You all so want to be like the US ,how many state still execute people challenge them on that ………

  9. Greengiant January 26, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    The current practice within the commonwealth is for the sitting judge to give a minimum sentence for a convicted murderer to serve before eligibility for a parole hearing.

    Life indefinitely has also been removed from the statute books of almost all commonwealth states. Our politicians continuously place legal upgrades and improvements to which they have agreed by signing treaties on the back burner. Yet they come back to us every five years for our vote, with only economics, education, health, transport, and crime fighting on their agenda. I can’t recall when last time I saw legislative improvement promises within an election manifesto.


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