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CCJ buildings - Trinidad

CCJ: Beware the politicians in (judges’) robes, the wolves in sheep’s clothing

Jamaica Observer

Editorial

May 24, 2018

CCJ buildings – Trinidad

As a country, we have never been as afflicted by intellectual schizophrenia as we are with the decision on whether to accept the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as our final court of appeal, replacing the United Kingdom Privy Council.

Jamaica is not the only one to be so afflicted, it would seem, because only four Caribbean Community (Caricom) nations have made the CCJ their final appellate court since it was established in 2001 and began operating in 2005.

The reason for this dual personality in Caricom countries is no doubt related to the fact that bright people who are for regional integration can see both the advantages and disadvantages of having a CCJ.

Indeed, it is instructive that the majority of the 15 member countries of Caricom have signed on to the original jurisdiction of the CCJ — which functions as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the regional bloc — while only Barbados, Belize, Dominica, and Guyana have signed on to the appellate jurisdiction.

This suggests to us that those who are hesitant to replace the UK Privy Council with the CCJ are not saying that regional judges are inferior. They trust them to interpret the revised treaty, which is critical to holding together the Caribbean Single Market and Economy.

The main stumbling block in the way of making the CCJ the final court of appeal is the overwhelming view that our politicians, most of them at any rate, are irrevocably in love with their own sense of power to intervene, adversely, we might add, in the running of local and regional institutions.

We in this space have in the past embraced the notion of a Caribbean court of appeal that might enrich regional jurisprudence and conceivably be less expensive to access than the London-based UK Privy Council.

But over the years we have grown more despondent as we see the propensity of the political ‘old boys’ club’ to rob our institutions of the impartiality that is paramount to public confidence in their integrity.

Until we are certain that we will have in place a legal superstructure that mirrors the confidence inspired by the Privy Council — untouchable by local politics — it would be foolhardy to make the CCJ our final appellate court.

No country which means itself well would go that route at this time. That is why we fully understand the sentiments expressed by Barbadian Prime Minister Freundel Stuart who has indicated his intention to pull the island out of the CCJ’s appellate jurisdiction if his Democratic Labour Party wins a third term in today’s general elections there.

“I’m not going to have Barbados disrespected by any politicians wearing robes. It is not going to happen,” he has declared.

We in this space have never lost sight of the collective wisdom of the Grenadian people who voted against the CCJ by a margin of 9,492 in favour and 12,434 against in a 2016 referendum, despite the fact that the leaders of government were in favour of the CCJ.

A second referendum on the CCJ is being now organised in Grenada. We would not be surprised if the results are the same as 2016.

 

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Wendy C Grenade

University lecturer commends ruling of CCJ

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, May 21, CMC –A senior lecturer at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) has welcomed the ruling of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) regarding the registration of Commonwealth citizens to be included in the voters list ahead of the May 24 general election here.

Wendy C Grenade
Wendy C Grenade

St. Lucian academic, Professor Eddy Ventose had challenged the decision of the electoral authorities here to deny him the opportunity to be registered even though he has been resident in the country for several years. The matter was heard during an unprecedented sitting of the Court, two Sundays ago.

In its ruling, the CCJ, which is Barbados’s final court, said that the “long standing policy of the Electoral and Boundaries Commission in relation to Commonwealth citizens to register as electors … is unlawful and ultra vires.

“The Court is satisfied that on the basis of judicial finding pronounced in this matter, which has not been appealed, the applicant has satisfied the necessary legal and regulatory conditions for registration as an elector,” the CCJ ruled, threatening to jail the Chief Electoral Officer, Angela Taylor, if she failed to obey the ruling.

Dr. Wendy C Grenade, a senior lecturer in Political Science in the Department of Government, Sociology, Social Work and Psychology, said the “CCJ must be commended for acting with a sense of urgency in the Ventose case.

“Its responsiveness in dispensing justice to Professor Ventose and by extension to other Commonwealth Caribbean citizens in Barbados, must be applauded. The CCJ also promoted transparency in its deliberations by utilising technology to livestream the court session.

“This was a sophisticated act of techno-democracy, where the CCJ bridged the divide between itself and ordinary Caribbean people. The virtual court demystified lofty judicial proceedings. This was quite refreshing and reassuring, particularly for some who question the efficacy of the CCJ,” she said.

The lecturer said that the rule of law is a central pillar of any well-functioning democracy and that when state officials ignore or seek to frustrate rulings of the court, justice is denied and democratic norms are ruptured.

“The CCJ must be commended for demonstrating its judicial independence by protecting the rights of Commonwealth Caribbean citizens from the arbitrary exercise of power by a Caribbean state.

“The CCJ’s warning that Barbados’ Chief Electoral Officer will be imprisoned and/or fined if she does not comply with its ruling, sends a strong signal of its seriousness of purpose and its intention to apply the full extent of the law to ensure justice for Caribbean citizens. It also demonstrates that the state is not above the law and that state officials can be held accountable for their actions.”

She said that the Ventose case is also significant because it demonstrates the importance of judicial review as a critical means through which citizens can claim legal redress against laws or policies that infringe on their rights.

“Judicial review is a powerful weapon available to citizens in their battle for rights and justice. One can argue that, given the remoteness of the Privy Council and the relatively high costs associated with taking matters to the UK-based court, judicial review has not been a norm in the Caribbean’s legal praxis.

“However, the proximity of the CCJ to the Caribbean’s reality, provides impetus for increased citizen activism through judicial review. Professor Ventose must be complimented for channelling his legal skill to an activist cause,” she added.

The lecturer said that beyond the legal question, a major implication of the Ventose judgement is that Caribbean people who reside in other Caribbean territories must feel a sense of belonging to the Caribbean sister state where they live, work and pay taxes.

“The right to vote, as contentious as it may be, is one of the most cherished democratic rights, particularly for people whose history has been replete with oppression and denial of suffrage. The CCJ’s judgement in this case has affirmed the enfranchisement of the Caribbean “other”.

“Fifty odd years after independence, it is encouraging that an indigenous Caribbean Court can do so. This renews hope in the promise of regionalism.

“The ruling in this case is a victory not only for Commonwealth Caribbean citizens in Barbados but for Caribbean jurisprudence, Caribbean democracy and regional integration. It reinforces the urgency for other CARICOM countries to put systems in place to accede to the CCJ in its appellate jurisdiction.’ To date, only Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana have done so, although, except for the Bahamas, Haiti and Montserrat, all other CARICOM countries are members of the CCJ in its original jurisdiction.

The Grenada-born lecturer said that importantly, “this landmark judgement is most timely for Grenada as that country seeks to re-open the conversation on another referendum to facilitate Grenada’s accession to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ, replacing the UK-based Privy Council as Grenada’s highest Court of Appeal”.

She said the case “highlights several benefits of the CCJ, which should be the catalyst of a YES campaign going forward”.

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charged-in-passport-racket

Suspended Cop and Mother Charged in Antigua in Connection with Passport Forgery

Suspended Assistant Superintendent of Police Ray John and his mother, Yvonne Nickie leaving court yesterday. (Screen grab from ABS News)

ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Tuesday May 15, 2018 – A suspended senior police officer and his mother have been charged with fraud related to an alleged racket involving forging Antigua and Barbuda passports.

Assistant Superintendent of Police Ray John, 47, who was suspended last month pending an investigation; and his mother, 63-year-old Yvonne Nickie, were each granted EC$50,000 bail (US$18,523) yesterday when they appeared in court on several charges stemming from offences allegedly committed between January and March this year.

As part of their bail conditions, they had to surrender their travel documents and have to report to the police station daily.

In addition to facing five counts of conspiracy to forge Antigua and Barbuda passports jointly with his Vincentian-born mother, John is also accused of two counts of larceny of 54 multi-layered infilling sheets and one multi-layered infilling patch, valued EC$21,700, (US$8,039) the property of the Antigua and Barbuda Passport Office.

He is further accused of receiving four multi-layered infilling sheets and one multi-layered infilling patch valued at EC$1,300 (US$482), also property of the Antigua and Barbuda Passport Office, knowing same to have been stolen.

Chief Magistrate Joanne Walsh ordered the mother and son to return to court on July 11.

The charges they were slapped with stem from an investigation that began in early April, into the discovery of bio pages of Antigua and Barbuda passports in the possession of a man in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

John was subsequently suspended after his home was searched and several items confiscated. His mother was visiting him at the time, but a few days later, as she boarded a flight back home at the V.C. Bird International Airport, she was held by police.

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Sir Denis Byron - CCJ President

Praises for Sir Dennis Byron as Antigua High Court observers his retirement

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, May 16, CMC – Prominent regional and international jurists Wednesday praised the contributions of the outgoing President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Sir Dennis Byron, for his immense contribution to Caribbean and international jurisprudence.

Sir Dennis Byron – CCJ President

Sir Dennis, 75, who leaves the Trinidad-based CCJ on July 3, was praised during a special sitting of the Antigua and Barbuda High Court for his years of service to the region and the international community as a lawyer and a judge.

Byron Farewell
Sir Dennis Byron (center) as Antigua and
Barbuda High Court holds special special sitting

“Sir Dennis, you are, you were and you will be Sir Dennis a man. Sir Dennis you touched the lives of so many persons in this country, in the region and internationally. You are truly a Caribbean man, a man who contributed not only to the development of Caribbean jurisprudence but the development of many a lawyer in the region,” Antigua and Barbuda’s Attorney general Steadroy “Cuttie” Benjamin said.

He said he would always be grateful to the advice of Sir Dennis, who instilled in him the need to have proper preparation in order to prevent poor performance and this is a message he too would like to leave with the wider regional community.

Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, Dame Janice Pereira, recalled the influence that the St. Kitts-Nevis born jurist had on her professional development and that the majority of his career was spent in the Eastern Caribbean region.

“He has served the region with great distinction,” she said, noting that when he went to serve as a permanent Judge of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which is located in Tanzania, he did so again with much distinction.

“President Byron has legitimately earned the respect of all his colleagues and peers as one of the greatest jurist from the CARICOM region and beyond,” she said in her message that was read out by Justice Clare Henry, of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.

The founding President of the Commonwealth Judicial Educational Institute and retired judge, Justice Sandra Oxner praised Sir Dennis’s “legacy to the Caribbean, the Commonwealth and the world” saying it is an impossible task to sum up the achievements of the retiring jurist.

Sir Dennis was first appointed as a High Court Judge of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in 1982 after a distinguished career in private practice. Subsequently, he served as Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. On September 1, 2011, he was sworn-in by the Governor-General of St Kitts and Nevis as the second President of the CCJ.

Sir Dennis’s judicial career spans a total of 36 years throughout which time he left an indelible mark on each of the three judiciaries over which he presided both as a judge of high distinction and as a judicial reformer.

In his remarks, Sir Dennis said he was “deeply touched by the kind and generous words from all the speakers” and that he hoped in the years to come “I will have opportunities to continue to engage in discussions on the many subjects which evoke passionate interests in me”.

He said he was thankful to God for “a life that has already spanned more than seven decades” and that his early upbringing in the Methodist Church in St. Kitts, “has profoundly influenced my life and my desire to serve.

“It has helped to shape my ideas on concepts of justice and mercy, has provided clarity in the midst of challenges and given me courage to dispense justice without fear or favour,” he said, praising also his parents whose influence “on my upbringing and early education played a critical role in preparing me for service to the region”.

He recalled his years working throughout the Caribbean and “those brilliant legal submissions and argumentations, and the invaluable interaction with judicial colleagues, even when in disagreement; they were all important tutorials” for him as a judge.

“That was my real schooling.  I am grateful to all those who played a part in the refinement and honing of my knowledge and skills.”

He said the principles of judging and judicial capacity development that he has learnt and tried to impart around the world had made him a better person and that his “judicial journey which has carried me from the bottom to the top of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court,  and not to omit the judiciary of Grenada when it had seceded from the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, and the international Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has been most remarkable.

“I must say that the opportunity to serve humanity in that capacity provided tremendous leaning experiences and spiritual satisfaction. I have seen and heard from some who have been at every junction along the way and the impact that I may have made. But the truth is that I am more conscious of the tremendous impact that it and every step of the way has made on me.”

Sir Dennis, the second Caribbean national to head the CCJ, which was established in 2001 to replace the London-based Privy Council as the region’s final court, said that his tenure had been “a wonderful experience for me.

“Even with all my experiences of judiciaries around the world, sitting side by side with judges from every continent on the bench of an International Court, I am extremely proud to have been part of this outstanding court with judges of the highest calibre, work ethic and integrity.

“The culmination of a lifelong dream to be part of a final Caribbean court has only been eclipsed by the sheer enjoyment of working in an environment of such high intellect and quality,” he said, praising the work of his colleagues.

“I am a witness to contributions the court and its judges have made to the development of a Caribbean Jurisprudence and to facilitating regional integration. It has been an honour to serve amongst some of our region’s finest men and women all of whom take immense pride and diligence in discharging their duties.  “And I leave optimistic about the future journey of the CCJ under the able leadership of my brother, Justice Adrian Saunders who has already distinguished himself over the last two and half decades with his scholarship, energy and leadership qualities.”

But he said that his pleasure with the environment at the court goes well beyond his judicial colleagues, paying tribute to those who behind the scene had ensured the smooth running of the establishment.

“I want to say thank you to the Caribbean man and the Caribbean woman. Over the years my engagement in discussions with our ordinary folk have made me realise that the holders of the higher echelons of power, authority and education are not the sole repositories of wisdom in our communities. “These people have helped to keep my feet on the ground and sustain my belief that this region is more advanced and deservers higher credit that we are willing to give ourselves.

I think that I have been buoyed up by friendships that have guided protected and assisted me along the way. The names are too numerous to mention,” he said, paying tribute to his family for standing up with him while he pursued his dreams.”

“As time has crept up on me I have become acutely conscious of this and promise and pray that one of my priorities in retirement is to try and do better at being fully present for you. Yet despite my deficiencies in this regard I have never felt bereft of your love and I am grateful. “

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Antigua & Barbuda Minister Asot Resigns

Antigua & Barbuda Minister Asot Resigns

Asot Michael (File Photo)

The Minister of Investment and Trade Asot Michael has resigned.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne says the decision was taken this morning, after hours of discussion.

The Prime Minister wrote to the Governor General, Sir Rodney Williams, telling him he has accepted Michael’s resignation.

Michael is facing fresh allegations that while Minister of Energy in 2016, he demanded money, a car and campaign financing from now scandal hit-British investor, Peter Virdee.

See resignation letter:

Download (PDF, Unknown)

 

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CCJ rules St Lucian academic should be registered to vote in B’dos elections

CCJ rules St Lucian academic should be registered to vote in B’dos elections

By CMC

 

Eddy Ventose

(CMC) — The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Sunday ruled that a St Lucian-born academic should be registered as an elector to cast a ballot in the May 24 general elections in Barbados and warned the Chief Elections Officer that failure to carry out the order by midday tomorrow could land her in jail for contempt of court or be fined.

In an unprecedented hearing, the CCJ, which is the Barbados final court, said that Eddy Ventose, a professor of law at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), had satisfied “the necessary legal and regulatory conditions for registration as an elector”.

In the ruling of the five-member panel of judges, read out by the CCJ President Sir Dennis Byron, the court told Angela Taylor, the Chief Electoral Officer “shall register or cause the applicant to be registered as an elector before 12 noon on Monday, the 14th day of May, 2018”.

Dennis said that if Taylor ‘does not comply with the order, you may be held to be in contempt of court and you may be imprisoned and or fined”.

Barbadians go to the polls on May 24 to elect a new government with the contest expected to be between the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) headed by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and the main opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) headed by Mia Mottley, who is seeking to become the first woman head of government in this Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.

Election day workers, including police, will cast their ballots on May 17.

Political observers had said that the matter before the CCJ, which is Barbados’ highest court, has implications not only for the appellant but also for Commonwealth citizens, living in Barbados, who want to be registered to vote in the general elections.

Ventose, who has lived in Barbados for several years, sought to be included on the Barbados electoral register. He had alleged that under the prevailing laws he is qualified and entitled to be registered.

The Court of Appeal last week ruled that Ventose was entitled to be registered to vote but stopped short of compelling the chief electoral officer to do so, instead, ordering the chief electoral officer to determine Professor Ventose’s claim within 24 hours.

Ventose had asked the CCJ to declare that his name should be on the final voters’ list ahead of its publication this week.

The CCJ said that the request for appeal came late Friday and it responded by scheduling the hearing for Sunday.

Dennis said the application for special leave to appeal filed on Friday had been granted as well as the application “to treat this hearing as an urgent matter.

“The application for special leave to appeal is being treated as the substantive hearing of the appeal,” he said, adding “the appeal is allowed and the orders of the Court of Appeal are set aside”.

Dennis said that the CCJ is satisfied that the applicant has locus standi…under the Administrative Justice Act …to bring judicial review application under Section three of the act. “The long standing policy of the Electoral and Boundaries Commission in relation to Commonwealth citizens to register as electors… is unlawful and ultra vires.

“The court is satisfied that on the basis of judicial finding pronounced in this matter, which has not been appealed, the applicant has satisfied the necessary legal and regulatory conditions for registration as an elector,” Dennis said.

The costs for this court and the court below were awarded to the appellant.

 

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Wendell Robinson

Police Commission given green light to challenge suspension

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, May 12, CMC – Police Commissioner, Wendel Robinson, who in April had been suspended with immediate effect amid allegations that he made sexual advances towards three junior policemen, has been granted leave to challenging the actions of the Police Service Commission (PSC).

Wendell Robinson
Wendel Robinson (File Photo)

High Court judge Rosalyn Wilkinson earlier this week granted Robinson leave to file for judicial review.

The matter is scheduled to be heard on June 6 and Robinson has been given until May 18 to formally file the application for judicial review.

The High Court has also granted him his request for the matter to be treated as urgent and has already named the Police Service Commission as the first respondent and the Attorney General as the second.

Robinson’s suspension came five days after Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin wrote to him, requesting that he respond to the allegations made by the officers that he asked at least one of them for sex and offered to pay.

Robinson, who has been in the post since 2015, was suspended on April 5.

In its letter informing him of the suspension, the PSC also indicated that he would receive 50 per cent of his salary until the outcome of a probe.

Robinson has argued that the actions of the PSC were unlawful and on April 13, and had written to the Commission threatening legal action if the suspension was not lifted on or before April 20.

But the PSC rejected the ultimatum.

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CCCJ

CCJ restores not guilty verdict in “Lusignan massacre” in Guyana

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, May 11, CMC – The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice Friday restored the 2013 acquittals of  James Hyles and  Mark Williams over their alleged involvement in what has been dubbed the ‘Lusignan Massacre’, in Guyana despite substantial procedural errors at trial.

Gunmen on January 6, 2008, went from house to house on the East Coast Demerara village of Lusignan armed with high powered rifles and killed 11 people including five children, as they slept in their homes.  Hyles and Williams were indicted on 11counts of murder and during their trial the presiding judge allowed a request by Hyles’s attorney to question jurors, before they were sworn in, due to the widespread pre-trial publicity of the case.

CCCJThe trial judge as well as state and defence counsel actively participated in this exercise.

The main prosecution witnesses were two members of the gang allegedly responsible for the massacre, one of whom was charged in connection with the massacre. However, the charges against him were withdrawn a mere two weeks before the trial began.

Hyles and William both denied involvement in the killings, but the jury on found both men not guilty on August 2, 2013 on all counts.

The Director of Public Prosecutions appealed the acquittals, under the newly amended Court of Appeal Act, on the basis that there were material irregularities in the trial.

The Court of Appeal agreed, allowed the appeal, overturned the verdicts of not guilty and sent the matter back to the High Court for a retrial.

But in their appeal to the CCJ, Guyana’s highest court, the appellants urged the Court to allow the appeal on the basis that the DPP’s new power to appeal an acquittal breached their constitutional right to the protection of law. I

They argued that the new law offended the principle against double jeopardy, which prevents an accused person from being tried again on the same, or similar, charges and on the same facts.

However, the Court rejected this argument and reminded the appellants that the wording of the Constitution contemplated the possibility of such an appeal and that in principle, the rule against double jeopardy only protected acquittals which were affirmed by the appellate courts.

The Court held that the appellants’ acquittals did not fall into that category.

Before considering the specific procedural issues, the CCJ acknowledged that the requirement, that the acquittal had to be the result of a procedural error(s) or flaw(s) of the trial judge, was a steep hill for an appellate court to climb.

As such, the Court constructed a test specifically for application in prosecution appeals against acquittals. It held that that the prosecution must satisfy the Court that “given, on the one hand, the nature and weight on the evidence and, on the other hand, the seriousness of the judicial error(s) or procedural flaw(s) it can with a substantial degree of certainty be inferred that had the error(s) or flaw(s) not occurred, the trial would not have resulted in the acquittal of the accused”.

While the CCJ did not agree fully with the findings of the lower court, it found that there were some material irregularities, including the way in which the questioning of the jurors was conducted and the failure of the trial judge to investigate an allegation of improper communication between a juror and man alleged to be Hyles’ father.

However, on application of the test, the CCJ held that it could not with the required degree of certainty infer that the acquittals were the result of the errors and that it was possible that the jury simply did not believe, beyond reasonable doubt, the evidence presented by the state.

The CCJ allowed the appeal, set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal of Guyana and restored the jury’s verdict of acquittal of the appellants.

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court rul

Man denied bail on charges of sexually assaulting a minor

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Apr 18, CMC – A 53-year-old man has been denied bail after he appeared before a city magistrate on charges of sexual penetration and sexual touching of a seven-year-old girl.

Ted Dookie, 53, appeared before Magistrate Adia Mohammed charged with one count of sexual penetration and two counts of sexual touching against a minor. He will return to court on May 1.

court rulThe court heard that the incidents are alleged to have occurred between December 17, 2017 and Thursday February 1, this year.

Meanwhile, a 56-year-old man charged with raping a 12-year-old girl and molesting her 13-year-old sister, has been committed to stand trial in the High Court.

Hubert Mannette was granted TT$200,000 (One TT dollar=US$0.17 cents) bail after he was charged with charged with two counts of sexual touching of a 13-year-old girl and one count of sexual penetration of a 12-year-old girl.

Police said they have also charged a 26-year-old man with two counts of having sexual intercourse with a female under the age of 14-years-old and one count of sexual penetration of a female child on March 26 this year.

Anthony Michael Mitchell, who was granted TT$100,000, has since been committed to stand trial in the High Court. He has been ordered not to come within 500 feet of the alleged victim or have any form of communication with her.

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prisons

Businessman sentenced to life for murdering family of six

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr. 12, CMC –  A 50 year old businessman was sentenced to 120 years behind bars for the murder of a family of six in the eastern parish of St. Thomas, 12 years ago.

prisonsIn handing down the sentence on Thursday, Justice Bertram  Morrison said  McLean must serve 48 years before being eligible for parole.

McLean, a chef, was convicted  of murder on all six counts after a seven member jury handed down a unanimous verdict, on March 6.

He was convicted of killing his former girlfriend Terry-Ann Mohammed, her son, Jessie O’Gilvie, 9, her niece –  Patrice Martin-McCool and her children, Lloyd McCool, 3, Jihad McCool, 6, and Sean Chin, 9, in the eastern parish on February 25, 2006.

However, McLean has  denied any involvement in the killings.

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