By George Alleyne
The Caribbean Court of Justice has ruled out the mandatory death sentences on persons convicted of murder in Barbados because such a practice is unconstitutional.
The Trinidad and Tobago based CCJ made this ruling while delivering decisions Wednesday in the consolidated cases of two convicted persons, Jabari Sensimania Nervais and Dwayne Omar Severin, who in their appeals challenged the murder convictions and the constitutionality of the mandatory death sentence for murder in Barbados.
The CCJ, the institution of final jurisdiction for Barbados stated, “a section of the [Barbados] Offences Against the Person Act was unconstitutional because it provided for a mandatory sentence of death.”
The CCJ indicated that both men however had their appeals against their convictions dismissed and it “ordered that the appellants be expeditiously brought before the [Barbados] Supreme Court for resentencing.”
The CCJ stated that before examining the issues raised by the appeal, it “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 two of the Offences against the Person Act.
“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 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.”
According to CCJ information, on Feb. 21, 2012 the First Appellant, Jabari Sensimania Nervais (“Nervais”), was convicted of the murder of Jason Burton and sentenced to death in accordance with section two of the Offences Against the Persons Act (“OAPA”), Cap 141. The Court of Appeal, comprising Mason, Burgess and Goodridge JJA, dismissed his appeal against conviction and sentence on May 17, 2017.
On May 28, 2014, the Second Appellant, Dwayne Omar Severin (“Severin”) was convicted of the murder of Virgil Barton and sentenced to death in accordance with section two of the OAPA. The Court of Appeal, comprised of Sir Marston Gibson, Chief Justice, Mason and Goodridge JJA, dismissed his appeal against conviction and sentence on May 17, 2017.
These are the last judgments that Sir Dennis Byron will deliver as CCJ president as he will demit office on July 4, 2018, CCJ stated.