CCJ orders release of men on death row in Barbados

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jul 25 2017 – The Trinidad based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), on Tuesday quashed the convictions of the two men – Vincent Edwards and Richard Haynes  – who were sentenced to death for murder committed in Barbados in 2006.

The men were set free on Tuesday, after being imprisoned since 2007.

They were charged for the murder of Damien Alleyne on July 21, 2007, almost a year after Alleyne’s death on August 11, 2006.

The court records stated that Alleyne was discovered by his girlfriend not far from her residence on the night of August 11, 2006.

She told the police that she heard explosions, which sounded like gunshots and later found him lying on the road. He was pronounced dead shortly afterward.

Following their arrest Edwards and Haynes were convicted of murder and sentenced the death.

On August 19, 2015, the appellants sought leave to appeal to the CCJ.

The regional court in handing down its ruling, held that the convictions could not be upheld as the sole evidence presented by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was “not sufficient to ground a conviction having regard to the provisions and the general spirit of the Evidence Act”.

In a statement, the CCJ said the only evidence linking the appellants to the murder was their alleged oral confessions made to police officers in separate interviews with the officers while at a police station July 19, 2007 –  almost a year after Alleyne’s murder.

“Mr. Andrew Pilgrim, QC argued that there was no case to answer as this sole evidence was unreliable and as such the judge should have dismissed the case against the appellants.”

The CCJ considered whether a defendant may be convicted in circumstances where the only evidence against him is a disputed and uncorroborated oral confession allegedly made to investigating police officers whilst the accused was in police custody.

The judgment of the Court was delivered by the Justice Anderson, with a concurring judgment by Justice Saunders.

“The Court acknowledged that, prior to the Evidence Act, there was case law that supported the position that a man could be convicted of an offence where the sole evidence against him was an alleged oral confession provided that the jury was warned that such a conviction may be unsafe.

The CCJ, however, highlighted 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.”

The Court stressed that the evidence against the accused men had to meet the appropriate standards outlined in the well-known decision of R v Galbraith.

This meant that the evidence had to be reliable, especially in these proceedings where the punishment for murder in Barbados was death.

The CCJ stated that 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.”

The CCJ said that in this case, there was no other evidence and as such the judge should have dismissed the case against the appellants.

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