Privy Council blanks AG’s request for stay in bail-for-murder appeal

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THE State’s application for a stay of the Court of Appeal’s decision which cleared to way for anyone charged with murder to apply for bail has been refused by the Privy Council.

Newsday understands the London-based appellate court dismissed the Attorney General’s application for the stay.

The State’s appeal of the Appeal Court’s decision will be heard on June 8-9 at the Privy Council.

In March, the State received final leave to challenge the ruling of the Appeal Court which paved the way for anyone charged with murder to apply for bail, for the first time in over a century.

A previous application for a stay in the local courts had been denied.

In February, the Court of Appeal, in a challenge by former murder accused Akili Charles, ruled that Section 5(1) of the Bail Act of 1994, which previously precluded judicial officers from considering bail for those accused of murder, was unconstitutional. This allowed anyone charged with murder to apply for bail.

The Appeal Court held that portions of the Bail Act that restricted anyone from applying for bail for murder were not reasonably justifiable in a society concerned about the rights and freedoms of the individual.

In its appeal to the Privy Council, the State says the appeal involved the proper interpretation of sections 4 and 5 of the Constitution and were issues of “great general and public importance.”

It also said the matter relates to whether the prohibition to bail for murder was saved law and whether it infringed the separation of powers, the rule of law, the fundamental rights of the accused and was not reasonably justifiable.

“The Court of Appeal decision represents a departure from a previous decision of the Court of Appeal and impacts on several decisions of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council,” the notice of appeal said.

Ten grounds of appeal faulting the Appeal Court’s decision were filed in support of the appeal.

In support of the stay application, Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, SC, went on affidavit saying his office could not cope with the deluge of bail-for-murder applications.

At the end of March, he said there were 78 people on murder charges who had applied for bail. He said because of the Appeal Court’s ruling, he has had to assign two of his three deputies to only deal with those bail applications, leading to a backlog of other matters at his office.

On Friday, a High Court judge is expected to deliver her ruling on two bail applications of two men awaiting their trial for over two decades.

On March 25, a High Court Master granted bail to another man who was committed to stand trial for a 2014 murder.

Gaspard complained of the inability of the police to provide the information necessary to process bail applications urgently.

Leading the State’s team is Peter Knox, QC, while former AG Anand Ramlogan leads British QC Peter Carter, Pippa Woodrow, Adam Riley and Ganesh Saroop for Charles. The Law Association is appearing as an interested party in the matter and have submitted that the risk of injustice in granting a stay weighed heavily on the side of those who may suffer a further deprivation of liberty pending the determination of the State’s appeal.

In opposition to the stay, Ramlogan and his team said the Appeal Court already dealt with reasons advanced by the State in support of the stay application.

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