Privy Council quashes death sentence in Trinidad
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Friday June 17, 2011 – A convicted killer on death row in Trinidad and Tobago has escaped the hangman’s noose after the Judicial Committee of the London-based Privy Council ruled that the mandatory death sentence for felony murder is unconstitutional.
With the court, Trinidad and Tobago’s highest court of appeal, quashing Nimrod Miguel’s death sentence, he will now be entitled to a sentence hearing where a judge will have the discretion to impose an appropriate sentence.
Miguel was in January 2008 convicted for the murder of Ramesh Lalchan. He had admitted that he and three others robbed the man of his car, but said it was one of the others who shot Lalchan in the head.
His initial challenge to the conviction and sentence in the Court of Appeal in the twin-island republic was rejected and he then went to the Privy Council.
The British court ruled this week that the imposition of the mandatory sentence of death on conviction for participation in a “violent arrestable offence” is particularly harsh as all persons involved in the offence are liable to be convicted of murder and automatically sentenced to death, even if the killing was done without intent to kill or to cause grievous bodily harm.
Saul Lehrfreund and Parvais Jabbar, human rights lawyers and Executive Directors of the Death Penalty Project - an international human rights organisation that provides free legal representation to individuals facing the death penalty in the Commonwealth – welcomed the ruling which they said could benefit others convicted in similar circumstances.
“This important ruling could potentially assist many prisoners on death row who have been convicted of “violent arrestable offence murder” and were sentenced to the mandatory death penalty in Trinidad and Tobago. All such prisoners will now be entitled to the same remedy as Mr. Miguel and fall to be resentenced,” they said in a statement.
They said they hoped the legislation would be adjusted to remove the mandatory aspect of the death penalty from the statute books.
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