The Court of Appeal has upheld the decision of a High Court judge to deny bail to convicted killer Pedro Deroy Ellis.
But his attorney Queen’s Counsel Larry Smith is still toasting a small victory, having got the three-judge panel to deliver a landmark ruling.
Ellis, 38, of Parris Gap, Westbury Road, St Michael, is accused of murdering Antonio Harewood on May 5, 2013.
He had previously served a ten-year sentence back in 2004 for manslaughter.
Back on March 7, 2018, Smith in association with Shanna Goddard and Fabian Walthrus had asked the Court of Appeal to overturn a decision by High Court Justice Michelle Weekes to deny Ellis’ bail application.
The QC had argued that Justice Weekes had erred when she denied his client bail. He argued that there was “no exercise” carried out by the judge to determine whether the defendant, if released, would fail to surrender to custody, commit an offence or interfere with witnesses.
Smith had also asked the three-member judiciary panel of Justices Andrew Burgess, Kaye Goodridge and Margaret Reifer to overturn the decision.
And while the Court of Appeal – which featured Justice William Chandler replacing Burgess who has taken up a post at the Caribbean Court of Justice – ruled that it had the authority to hear such appeals and that Justice Weekes had erred in her decision, they, too, denied the accused man bail.
In a 27-page judgment which was handed down yesterday, the Court said that the strength of the evidence which suggested that Ellis had committed the killing, despite his claim of self-defence, along with his previous manslaughter conviction, was enough to deny him bail.
The appellate court justices said in their ruling: “In our judgment, these considerations weigh very heavily in favour of refusing bail to the appellant. It must be that the public has every right to expect to be protected from persons who repeat offences involving the taking of human life. Of course, the appellant has the right to remain at liberty and not to be deprived of his liberty, unless or until he is convicted of the present crime with which he is charged.
“But, he admitted to manslaughter in 1998 and has admitted to the killing in the present case. In light of these facts, we would exercise the section 5 discretion and refuse the appellant’s application for bail.”
It is the first time that the Court of Appeals has heard an appeal against a bail application decision of a High Court judge.
Smith told Barbados TODAY he was somewhat satisfied that a landmark ruling had been delivered.
The Queen’s Counsel said: “Notwithstanding the disappointment I feel that the court did not see it fit, or they weren’t convinced that they should exercise their discretion to grant bail to Mr Ellis, the case does advance the law in the sense now that we know a decision of a High Court judge in refusing bail can be appealed to the Court of Appeal and more so, that the judge has to give reasons why he or she is withholding bail and that is an important point.
“Yes, it was a novel issue. It was the first time that an appeal of this nature has come before the Court of Appeal and the Bail Act has been around for over 20 years.”
He said the decision was extremely timely considering the public interest and debate surrounding the issue of bail.
“From our point of view, from a jurisprudential point of view, I think the decision is most useful. I would have just liked that my client who has been on remand since 2013 without a trial would have been granted bail, but I will take his instructions and see what the next steps will be in relation to that,” Smith explained.