Any constitutional amendments to give judges the power to impose the death penalty, have already been made.
That is the word from Attorney General Dale Marshall, who today sought to clear the air after it was reported in the media that judges from the Court of Appeal called for amendments to be made to the Constitution to clarify how the mandatory death sentence should be administered.
Marshall was responding to comments made by Court of Appeal president Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson and Justice Kaye Goodridge, during yesterday’s hearing of death row inmate Jamar Bynoe who is challenging his six murder convictions and death sentence.
However, the Attorney General revealed that the necessary amendments had been made more than three months ago, paving the way for judges to use their discretion in sentencing persons convicted of murder.
“One judge of the Court of Appeal is reported as having said that the courts find themselves in a conundrum because the Constitution has not been amended and seems to be suggesting that the Parliament of Barbados has to make amendments to the Constitution so as to facilitate hanging.
“I don’t want to get into an argument with our esteemed judges outside of the court, but I do not agree that there is any conundrum at all. Arising out of the decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in the Barbadian case Nervais and Severin, the Parliament of Barbados has acted to amend all such laws, including the Constitution, in order to permit our courts to impose the death penalty if warranted,” Marshall contended.
“I admit there was an issue with the sole amendment to the Constitution that was rejected by the Senate, but that has been resolved and the Constitution has been amended accordingly and was proclaimed on April 4 this year.”
Marshall explained that in the decision of Nervais and Severin, the CCJ had ruled on the constitutionality of certain provisions of the Offences Against the Persons Act relating to the mandatory death penalty.
“All of those amendments have been made, and as far as we are concerned – and we have consulted at every stage with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) – all is in order for murder trials to proceed in Barbados, and for the death penalty to be imposed under law,” the Attorney General said.
He said while it had been reported that no murder trial had taken place since May 2018, several murder cases were to be heard shortly.
Marshall admitted while there had been a hitch in obtaining the services of several judges to hear those matters, plans were underway for temporary judges to be in place by September.
“In fact, there are a number of murder trials that are scheduled to be heard for the rest of the year. The High Court of Barbados will go on its annual holiday in August, but I’m assured by the DPP that there are a number of murder trials waiting and ready to be commenced as soon as the court holiday is ended,” the AG said.
“We had expected to put some additional criminal judges in place, but the fact is people don’t put their careers on hold and we have had some challenges with the availability of the individuals. Those matters have now been resolved, and I expect that come the start of the court year in September we will have those additional temporary judges in place.”
Marshall said the active recruitment of new judges along with the establishment of a criminal court would “make a big difference in helping us to get our criminal trials, especially murder trials, through the system”.