The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), in a ruling today, ordered that the case of Vincent Edwards and Richard Haynes be sent back to the Barbados Court of Appeal.
Edwards and Haynes had been convicted of murder in June 2013 and sentenced to death.
The two men had previously appealed their convictions and sentences to the Court of Appeal, but that matter was dismissed.
They subsequently filed their application to the CCJ and to appeal as poor persons.
However, the CCJ decided that the issue of the unconstitutionality of the mandatory death penalty should be sent back to the Barbados Court of Appeal for a determination of how that issue should be resolved.
“The Court found no ‘compelling reason’ to allow the applicants to raise the issue for the first time before the CCJ. The Court said that it should not lightly allow persons to ‘leapfrog the local courts’ because ‘the views of the local judges should first be heard’ on such an important question.”
The CCJ panel, which comprised Justices Adrian Saunders, Winston Anderson and Maureen Rajnauth-Lee, also advised the Court of Appeal to resolve the matter in a timely fashion.
“. . . the Barbados Court of Appeal could either hear this issue and deliver judgment itself on it or it could first be heard by a trial judge. However, whatever option is chosen,writing in a police officer’s notebook. These confessions were never initialled orsigned by either Edwards or Haynes and were denied by them at the trial.
Secondly, they argued that the mandatory death penalty imposed on them was unconstitutional, despite a 2002 amendment to the Constitution of Barbados that specifically legitimizes mandatory death sentences for murder.
This second issue was, however, never raised by the men until they filed their Application to the CCJ. The Court granted permission for the men to appeal their convictions on the first ground and to appeal as poor persons.
In granting such permission, the Court found that the case was one of significant public importance, it warranted an appeal before the final court and that the men had demonstrated that there was a realistic possibility of a miscarriage of justice.
The Applicants were represented by Andrew Pilgrim, QC, Angella Mitchell-Gittens and Alexandria Thomas, while Donna Babb- Agard, QC, and Alliston Seale acted for the Respondent. (RB)