Monday 19 August, 2019

AG: Hangings can resume in Barbados, more judges to come

Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs, Dale Marshall

Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs, Dale Marshall

Barbados Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Dale Marshall says all is in place for murder trials and hangings to resume on the island. In fact, he is suggesting that this has been the case since April this year.

He was responding to claims that High Court Judges on the island had been caught between a Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruling on the mandatory imposition of the death penalty, and statutes, which they say have not yet been amended.

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Stressing that he was weary of making “any response . . . based on a mere sound byte and a headline” reported in another section of the media, Marshall said while he wasn’t looking to get into an argument with “our esteemed judges outside of the courtroom”, he was not in agreement that “there was any conundrum”. 

“Arising out of the decision of the CCJ in the Barbadian case of [Jabari Sensimania] Nervais and [Dwayne Omar] Severin, the Parliament of Barbados has acted to amend all such laws, including the constitution in order to permit our courts to impose a death penalty if warranted. 

“I admit that there was an issue with the sole amendment to the constitution that was rejected by the Senate . . . but that has been resolved, and the constitution has been amended accordingly and was proclaimed on the 4th of April this year,” he noted. 

The CCJ in its judgment last year said with regards to the unrelated death penalty cases of both men, a section under the Offences Against the Person Act was unconstitutional because it provided for a mandatory sentence of death.

In a statement issued through the Government Information Service, today, Thursday, July 11, the Attorney General stressed all the necessary amendments had been made after consultation with the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP).

“All is in order for murder trials to proceed on [sic] Barbados and for the death penalty to be imposed under law. In that regard, I can say to the country, that yes, there were some issues where the judges at some point, felt that absent the constitutional amendment that had paused in the Senate late last year, they were not certain that they should proceed with criminal trials. 

“That amendment having been sorted out and proclaimed having consulted with the DPP, the Courts are in a position and are ready to do murder trials.  In fact, there are a number of murder trials scheduled to be heard for the rest of the year. The high court of Barbados will go on its annual holiday in August but I am assured by the DPP that there are a number of murder trials that are waiting and ready to be commenced as soon as the court holiday is ended,” Marshall stated.

Promised magistrates coming

The minister also revealed that come September, the additional temporary magistrates promised to reduce the backlog of cases before the court, will be in place.

“We had expected to put some additional criminal judges in place but the fact is that people don’t put their careers on hold; that we’ve had some challenges with the availability of the individuals . . . those matters have now been resolved and I expect that come the start of the court year in September, we will have those additional temporary judges in place.

“. . . but also, because of the active recruitment of new judges, we will without doubt see a criminal court in Barbados constituted of at least four High Court judges, and this will make a big difference in helping us to get our criminal trials, especially the murder trials, through the system.”

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