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The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court brings Golden Anniversary Celebrations to an Official Close

The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States press room Logo

ECSC Media Statement

Monday, March 26, 2018 — The closing ceremony of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations was held on Thursday, 22nd March 2018 at 5:00 p.m., at the Finance Administrative Centre (FAC) Conference Facility, 5th Floor, Finance Administrative Centre, Pointe Seraphine, Castries. This ceremony was held to bring to a close the wonderful year-long celebrations.

The ceremony was attended by His Excellency Sir Emmanuel Neville Cenac, Governor General of Saint Lucia and his wife Lady Julita CenacHer Excellency Dame Calliopa Pearlette Louisy, Former Governor General of Saint Lucia, Judicial Officers of the Court of Appeal and High Court, Honourable Stephen Julien, Attorney General of Saint Lucia Mr. Thaddeus Antoine, OECS Bar Association President, Mrs. Mary Julianna-Charles, Saint Lucia Bar Association President, Staff of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court’s Headquarters and Saint Lucia High Court, Members of the Public and Private Bar, Principals, Teachers, Parents and Saint Lucian Students who were successful in the ECSC 50th Anniversary Essay and Poster Competition.

The event gave Her Ladyship an opportunity to personally thank everyone who contributed to the yearlong celebrations of the Court’s milestone anniversary celebrations. Additionally, Her Ladyship also took the opportunity to assure the members of the legal fraternity present that the Court will do everything possible to embrace the use of technology so that justice can be dispensed in a timely and efficient manner. 

However, Her Ladyship lamented about the limited and often inadequate resources allocated to the Court and asked everyone present to be patient and continue to give the Court their continued support as it serves the citizens and residents of the OECS by administering and delivering the quality of justice that they deserve.

Attendees were treated to a video highlight of the 50th Anniversary events held in all Members States and Territories. The event was also used to launch the ECSC’s future logo and the 50th anniversary Commemorative Magazine.

Entertainment for the evening was provided by Saint Lucian Songstress Mrs. Claudia Edward-Ladner and the award winning Royal Saint Lucia Police Band. Immediately after the closing ceremony, there was a cocktail reception where the lively and appreciative gathering, took the opportunity to mingle and socialize as the curtains officially closed on the celebrations.

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Two fisherman nabbed and charged in major drug bust

ST GEORGE’S, Grenada, July 31, CMC – Two fishermen—a Vincentian and a Grenadian—were remanded to prison on Monday following a drug bust involving almost EC$1.5 million worth of cannabis.

Cosmore Francis, 37, of Rose Bank, St. Vincent was charged with possession of 655 pounds of cannabis with an estimated street value of EC$1,485,540; while Kyron Alexander, 43, of Soubise, St. Andrew, Grenada, was charged with conspiracy to traffic a controlled drug.

They were also jointly charged with trafficking in a controlled drug.

A police statement said the two were nabbed during a recent drug bust.

When they appeared in the Grenville Magistrate’s Court on Monday, they were denied bail.

They will reappear in court on August 10.

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US Customs officers nab passenger with cocaine on flight from Trinidad and Tobago

US Customs officers nab passenger with cocaine on flight from Trinidad and Tobago

NEW YORK, Jul 27,   CMC –  The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency says officers have arrested a woman who was found with cocaine her luggage when she arrived at the John F. Kennedy airport on a flight from Trinidad and Tobago earlier this week.

According to the CBP, on Monday, officers stopped Diamonaire Smith, a United States citizen and during the baggage inspection officers noticed that the sides of the suitcase felt “unusually thick.”

“The CBP officers, thereafter, probed the suitcase, which revealed a white powdery substance. The white powdery substance field-tested positive for cocaine.”

Smith was arrested for the importation of a controlled substance and was turned over to the US Homeland Security Investigations for investigation. 

The total weight of cocaine seized was about five pounds, with an estimated street value of US$85,000.

Smith now faces US federal narcotics smuggling charges and will be prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office in the US Eastern District Court of New York. 

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New CCJ President to be honoured with special sitting

New CCJ President to be honoured with special sitting

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jul. 12, CMC – The new president of the Trinidad and Tobago based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Justice Adrian Saunders will be honoured on Friday, 13th in the first of two special sittings for the regional court.

Justice Adrian Saunders

Friday’s sitting will be held at the headquarters here , while the second sitting will take place in Saunders’ home country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines on July 20.

The new President was installed at a ceremony in Montego Bay, Jamaica  last week.

The special sitting will be attended by members of the legal community and other organisations across the region.

On Friday evening the Caribbean Association of Judicial Officers (CAJO) will host a fundraising dinner party to honour the new CCJ President, who is also chairman of the organisation.

Justice  Saunders, a native of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, graduated from the University of the West Indies , Cave Hill Campus with a Bachelor of Laws degree   in 1975 and a Legal Education Certificate from the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad & Tobago in 1977.

In 2005,  Justice Saunders was among the first cohort of judges to join the CCJ bench before being elevated to President.

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Judge to hand down decision on request to strike out case against Opposition Leader

Judge to hand down decision on request to strike out case against Opposition Leader

BASSETERRE, St Kitts, July 13, CMC – A High Court judge will today, Friday, hand down his decision in the Dominica diplomatic passport case brought against Opposition Leader Dr Denzil Douglas by a private citizen.

Justice Trevor Ward’s decision is expected to be delivered at 1:30 p.m.

Opposition Leader Dr Denzil Douglas

Douglas’ lawyers, Anthony Astaphan SC, Delano Bart QC, Sylvester Anthony and Angelina Gracey Sookoo-Bobb, during a two-hour hearing last Friday, asked Justice Ward to strike out a claim by Cuthbert Mills that their client is not qualified to be the Parliamentary Representative for the constituency of St Christopher 6 because he has a Dominica diplomatic passport.

The team submitted a number of reasons why Mills’ claim ought to be struck out in its entirety or, in the alternative, certain paragraphs.

“Our reason for trying to strike out the entire claim is that under Section 36 (4) of the (St Kitts and Nevis) Constitution which allows a challenge to a member of the house who is duly elected but since then there is an allegation arose that challenges his qualification to remain the house, only allows for a single challenge to be brought and in the circumstances where a challenge is brought by a voter, the Attorney General can intervene, however there is no such provision where the Attorney General has first filed and so because of the very strict nature of the section 36 of the Constitution, there is no provision allowing for what is considered a second challenge, particularly given the way that Mr Mills has chosen to prosecute his case,” said Sookoo-Bobb.

The defence team contended that Mills failed to specifically point out what are the laws of Dominica that he alleges amount to Douglas being in allegiance to the Commonwealth of Dominica as a foreign power.

She also referred to Mills’ attachment, as evidence, of the front page of the St Kitts-Nevis Observer newspaper which he purported to have a copy of Douglas’ diplomatic passport.

“Mr Mills cannot exhibit that document. We argued that it is inadmissible,” said Sookoo-Bobb, who further pointed out that looking at the document there is absolutely no passport number tying his client to the diplomatic passport, and it is an incomplete document seemingly Photoshopped.

Mills also relied on Facebook postings which Douglas’ lawyers described as “hearsay”.

She said it was curious as to how Mills was able to obtain documents which are private and ought to be kept in the custody of the Supervisor of Elections.

Mills submitted a copy of Douglas’ Nomination Paper that was obtained without an order of the High Court in which the National Elections Act specifically states that those documents are to be kept in the private custody of the Supervisor of Elections unless there is a court order allowing disclosure.

“We also challenged the three public officers who are attached to the Immigration Department who went into the immigration system and provided Mr. Mills with Dr. Douglas’ alleged date of travel, the aircraft number that he travelled on and his alleged dominica diplomatic passport number. We thought that is a serious and obscene breach of Dr. Douglas’ right to privacy that public officials can use their positions to retrieve private information about Dr. Douglas and give that to an ordinary citizen for the purposes of bringing what we consider a politically-malicious claim against Dr. Douglas.

“The court should strike out these immediately and they ought not to be in this matter one day longer,” Sookoo said.

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Case that never should be

Claude Gerald and Attorney-at-Law Warren Cassell

We concur ZJB’s lead reporting that “Agricultural Science teacher Claude Gerald is a free man”.

This is after a nine-member (mixed) jury of men and women, returned a not guilty verdict for indecent assault of a number of schoolgirls, at the Montserrat Secondary School (MSS) only this afternoon.

ZJB accurately reports: “The incident arose out of New Year’s greetings up to start of the school year on an open field around the midday on January 10 at the compound of the Montserrat Secondary School.

“Many students were said to be present at that time when the assault allegedly occurred and the teacher was arrested and charged after a three-week investigation.”

Gerald faced six counts, one each of six girls at the start of a two-week trial.

“Indecent assault carries a five-year jail sentence for each count Gerald’s defense team led by Attorney Warren Cassell was able to twiddle the charges down to four in a no case submission argument before the court on Tuesday.”

The no-case submission was an expected one and based on a ruling issued by Justice Morley who presided on the case, and who refused the press (especially Bennette Roach) from witnessing the trial when the evidence began, he ruled, “and so there is no case to answer as pleaded on counts 2 and 6. Accordingly, the trial shall proceed on counts 1, 3, 4, and 5, and the jury shall be directed to return a verdict of not guilty on counts 2 and 6 as pleaded…”

It was no surprise as ZJB reported: “after the acquittal defense attorney Warren Cassell says the not guilty verdict was expected.”.

Cassell said: “I am not at all surprised by the verdict and – there were six counts of indecent assault. Indecent assault is specifically defined in Montserrat’s law as ‘an assault accompanied by words or circumstances of indecency’.

“All of the accusers agreed that Mr. Gerald said nothing to them when he hugged them, therefore there were no words. And I said to the jury look where are the circumstances of indecency? This thing took place in the open, on the field of the of the M.S.S. campus. Where are the circumstances of indecency? No such thing existed. It cannot be that just by virtue of hugging, just by hugging a child and even kissing the child on the cheek. That is not indecent assault, or else fathers and brothers siblings would be guilty of it every single day – it happens every single day. Is it wise for a teacher to do it to a student, maybe not, but it doesn’t make it an indecent assault.

Attorney Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Oris Sullivan meanwhile, did not address the charges. But, while accepting the jury’s decision commended the witnesses and victims for courage to come forward and testify.

“Our system as I said on numerous occasions provides for trial by a jury of one peers. We accept the verdict of the jury of course, but we are still commending the witnesses and the victims for coming forward. This should not be a deterrent to other victims and other persons who are aggrieved who have been assaulted or sexually molested. We want to still encourage everybody who have been the victim of offences to come forward. It is the jury’s decision but that is not to say that every case will result in the same decision. We have seen our Jury at work and we’ve seen our jury convicted on prior occasions high profile cases, but today the prosecution was unsuccessful, but we still respect the Jury’s decision.”

TMR will present a more comprehensive report in a future issue, as there is much to reveal about the investigation, trial, its origin and the matters of child abuse and molestation, protocols and prosecution.

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Diplomatic passport case filed by private citizen - ruled abuse of process

Diplomatic passport case filed by private citizen – ruled abuse of process

BASSETERRE, St Kitts, Friday July 13, CMC – Opposition Leader Dr Denzil Douglas scored a legal victory on Friday when a High Court judge threw out a challenge filed by a private citizen to his right to sit in Parliament on the basis of his ownership of a Dominica diplomatic passport.

High Court Judge Trevor Ward ruled that the civil suit brought by Cuthbert Mills “was an abuse of the process”, since it had come after Attorney General Vincent Byron had already filed a similar claim.

Opposition Leader Dr Denzil Douglas celebrates after the ruling.

Mills had submitted a claim that Douglas is not qualified to be the Parliamentary Representative for the constituency of St Christopher 6 because he has a Dominica diplomatic passport. But during a two-hour hearing last Friday, Douglas’ lawyers, Anthony Astaphan SC, Delano Bart QC, Sylvester Anthony and Angelina Gracey Sookoo-Bobb asked the judge for the claim to be struck out.

Sookoo-Bobb told the media after the ruling that Justice Ward had agreed with the former prime minister’s legal team that Mills’ claim amounted to an abuse of the process of the court, having been filed one month after Byron’s claim.

The court ruled that under the constitution, Mills was not allowed to bring a second claim or to intervene.

The issue of cost has been reserved and submissions will be made as to whether or not Mills will pay Douglas’ cost and how much he should pay.

“Those submissions are to be filed by July 19, 2018,” said Sookoo-Bobb.

The case brought by the Attorney General is to be heard on September 28.

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PM promises to actively campaign for ‘yes’ vote in CCJ referendum

PM promises to actively campaign for ‘yes’ vote in CCJ referendum

ST GEORGE’S, Grenada, July 4, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has given the assurance that he will be actively campaigning to ensure that the upcoming referendum to make the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) be the final appellate court for Grenada is not a failure.

Speaking to delegates at the New National Party (NNP) General Council over the weekend, Mitchell, who is also the party’s political leader, said the things being done by his party must be about the good of the country because what is good for the country must also be good for the NNP.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell

“Our children and grandchildren deserve to have a Caribbean Court of Justice. We have come of age sufficiently. We have to trust our brothers and our leadership to provide justice for us and therefore I will be campaigning this time,” he told the hundreds of delegates at the farty’s first general council since the March 13 general elections.

“The last time my hands were tied, this time it will be loose,” he told the cheering audience.

The first referendum in 2016 failed. Grenada is scheduled to stage a second referendum in the last quarter of this year on replacing London-based Privy Council with the CCJ.

Prime Minister Mitchell and his team will lead a ‘vote yes’ campaign.

Data from the Parliamentary Elections Office show that less than 35 per cent of the voting population participated in the November 2016 referendum.

The CCJ Advisory Committee, which will be tasked with educating the public about the work of the CCJ and its benefits, is chaired by Attorney General Sir Lawrence Joseph. It comprises 15 other stakeholder representatives including women, the legal fraternity, the religious community and labour movement.
The previous committee was headed by Dr. Francis Alexis who is now a member of the committee.

The CCJ Bill was laid in the Lower House of Parliament on May 15 this year.

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Caribbean Court Rules Guyanese Presidential Term Limits Legal

Caribbean Court Rules Guyanese Presidential Term Limits Legal

CCJ rules two terms only for presidents of Guyana

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jun. 25, CMC – The Trinidad and Tobago based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has ruled that   an amendment, that barred Presidents of the Republic of Guyana from serving more than two terms in office, was a valid amendment to the Constitution.

In the ruling handed down on Tuesday, the court said that after examining the  historical background of the amendment to the constitution of Guyana, it was noted that it was passed unanimously by the National Assembly during the administration of President  Bharrat Jagdeo.

“The CCJ felt that it was clear that the amendment did not emerge from the desire of any political party to manipulate the requirements to run for the office of President. The Constitution was amended after extensive national consultation and therefore represented a sincere attempt to enhance democracy in Guyana,” the regional court said.

The challenge to Act No 17 of 2001 amended Chapter 90 of the Constitution to set presidential term limits and qualification for presidential candidates was made by a private citizen, Cedric Richardson who challenged the amendment on the basis that he should have the right to choose whomsoever he wanted to be President. 

He also stated that the amendment disqualified Jagdeo, who had previously served two terms as President, from running for office in upcoming elections. Richardson argued that the amendment was inconsistent with his rights under Articles 1 and 9 of the Constitution which declared that Guyana was a “sovereign democratic state”.

He said that in order for the National Assembly to amend the Constitution, the amendment had to be supported by a majority vote in a referendum. He said that no referendum was held before the amendment in 2000 and therefore the amendment was unconstitutional.

The High Court, and a majority of the Court of Appeal, agreed with  Richardson.

They said that an essential feature of a sovereign democratic state was the freedom enjoyed by its people to choose whom they wish to represent them.

The  court said the amendment was therefore unconstitutional because it “diluted the opportunity of the people to elect a President of their choice.”

The Attorney General of Guyana had appealed to the CCJ challenging the majority ruling in the Court of Appeal.

The challenge to the term limit came in the run up to the historic 2015 general elections, when the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) lost to the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) Coalition after 23 years in office of which Bharrat Jagdeo served two terms as President.

The challenge  sought to allow Jagdeo to contest elections again.

The main issue in the appeal was whether the additional qualifications set out in the amendment diluted the rights of the electorate or undermined the sovereign democratic nature of the state of Guyana as prescribed by Articles 1 and 9. 

All seven judges of the CCJ heard the appeal.

The CCJ also stated that new qualifications can be introduced by valid constitutional amendments and that the National Assembly had the power to amend the Constitution by a vote of at least two-thirds of all members of the Assembly, without holding a referendum.

The Court also outlined guiding principles for assessing when new amendments to the Constitution did not require the holding of a referendum.


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CCJ strikes down mandatory death penalty in Barbados

CCJ strikes down mandatory death penalty in Barbados

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jun. 27, CMC – The Trinidad and Tobago based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has ruled that the mandatory death penalty in Barbados is unconstitutional.

The CCJ, which is the highest court for Barbados, made the ruling based on two unrelated death penalty cases from Barbados.

The cases, Jabari Sensimania Nervais v The Queen and Dwayne Omar Severin v The Queen, were consolidated because both appeals challenged the murder convictions of each of the men and the constitutionality of the mandatory death sentence for murder in Barbados.

The Court stated that a section of the Offences Against the Person Act was unconstitutional because it provided for a mandatory sentence of death.

In addition, both men had their appeals against their convictions dismissed.

Before examining the issues raised by the appeal, the regional court considered the state of the mandatory death penalty in Barbados for murder and found that it was indisputable that the nation, through its actions, had acknowledged that it had an obligation to remove such mandatory sentence under section 2 of the Offences against the Person Act.

The court also noted that Barbados had also given undertakings to the CCJ and the Inter American Court of Human Rights to rectify the mandatory sentence which was reflected in the Barbados Privy Council’s consistent commutation of the mandatory death penalty.

The CCJ held that section 11 of the Constitution, which gives the right to protection of the law, was enforceable.

The CCJ also found that the mandatory death penalty breached that right as it deprived a court of the opportunity to exercise the quintessential judicial function of tailoring the punishment to fit the crime.

The CCJ ordered that the appellants be expeditiously brought before the Supreme Court for resentencing.

As it relates to the cases  – Nervais was convicted of the murder of Jason Barton and the mandatory sentence of death by hanging was imposed on him.

It’s reported that Barton was selling from a booth when an alarm was raised that caused him, and the people gathered around, to run away. Gunshots were fired by a group of men and  . Barton was struck by a bullet and died.

Nervais was  later arrested and charged with Barton’s murder after he made oral statements and a written confession to a police officer.

The Court of Appeal in Barbados dismissed his appeal against conviction and affirmed his sentence.

In the other case,   Severin was convicted before a judge and jury for the murder of  Virgil Barton in the parish of St. Phillip.

The prosecution relied heavily on the evidence of  Barton’s nephew,  who testified that he saw two men shoot at the deceased.

During investigations,  the police conducted a search of   Severin’s residence and found a Taurus semi-automatic gun along with thirty-one 9mm rounds in his bedroom.

In his appeal to the CCJ,   Severin challenged the reliability of  his nephew’s evidence, the fairness of the informal identification parade, and the instructions given by the judge to the jury at the trial.

The appeals were heard together on January 25 by the Bench of the CCJ comprising the  CCJ President Sir Dennis Byron.

These are the last judgments that the Byron will deliver as CCJ President as he will demit office on July 4.

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