Thursday, July 08, 2004

Ja: UK's Privy Council demonstrates the need for CCJ

THE UNITED Kingdom Privy Council, Jam-aica's final court of appeal, yesterday handed down a unanimous decision which struck down the mandatory death sentence imposed by the Jamaican Court on persons convicted of capital murder.

It was the Privy Council's ruling that the mandatory death sentence was unconstitutional and unlawful, based on the 1992 amendment to the Offences Against the Person Act.

UNLAWFUL

"So any death sentence passed under the mandatory requirement since the date when that amendment came into force must be held to be unlawful," the Privy Council held.

Lambert Watson, a Jamaican prisoner on death row who had challenged the mandatory death sentence, was successful in having his sentence quashed when his appeal was allowed. He had been sentenced to be hanged.

"It will therefore be open to the court in these cases either to impose the death sentence or to impose a lesser punishment, depending on the view it takes of the crime which the defendant committed, and all the relevant circumstances. The judge may be asked to hear submissions and, if appropriate, evidence about these matters, before he takes his decision as to what the sentence should be," the Privy Council stated.

Watson's case has been remitted to the Supreme Court for the appropriate sentence to be imposed for the crimes he was convicted of. Watson, now 44, a labourer of Anchovy, St. James was, convicted in the Hanover Circuit Court on June 15, 1999, of the murders of his nine-month-old baby girl, Georgiana, and her 24-year-old mother, Eugenie Samuels, also of Anchovy. The bodies, with multiple stab wounds, were found in bushes in Knockalva, Hanover, on September 18, 1997. The motive for the murders was that Samuels had sued Watson for child support.
It's high time the Caribbean stop having the U.K. -- which is anti-death penalty -- determine the fate of murderers.

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