Judge asks for more time in 'bail-for-murder' decision

Justice Joan Charles. -
Justice Joan Charles. -

The High Court judge hearing the novel constitutional claim of whether someone accused of murder should be allowed to apply for bail has asked for additional time to give her decision.

Justice Joan Charles, who was expected to deliver her ruling last Friday, e-mailed attorneys letting them know she needed more time.

Her judgment is now expected on March 8 and will be e-mailed to attorneys.

Charles has been asked by former murder accused Akili Charles to have the section of the Bail Act, which makes murder a non-bailable offence, declared unconstitutional.

He is asking for people charged with murder be allowed to apply for bail, as is the case in several other Caribbean countries. He has argued that the blanket restriction of the right to apply for bail while on a murder charge contravenes his constitutional rights.

The case has received attention, not only because of what Charles is asking the court to declare, but also because of an exchange of words between Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and UNC Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial, who is one of Charles’s attorneys on record.

Al-Rawi has accused the UNC senator of a conflict of interest, while she has accused him of being in contempt for discussing the case publicly while the judge deliberates.

That aside, Charles’s lead attorney, Anand Ramlogan, SC, has argued that the challenge was not to get the court to change the law to give bail to murderers, but to give an accused the opportunity to apply for bail.

Agreeing with Charles’s contention was the Law Association, which appears as an interested party in the case. President Douglas Mendes, SC, submitted it was disproportionate to apply the blanket denial of bail to different categories of murder, hypothetically referencing the difference between a contract killer and a father avenging the rape and murder of his daughter.

In resisting the claim, Senior Counsel Fyard Hosein, who represented the AG, said to allow those accused of murder the opportunity to apply for bail would “open a Pandora’s box of criminality of all sorts in the worst kind of way.”

He said it was a decision for Parliament, while admitting it would be difficult to get a three-fifths majority to have the legislature categorise murders to allow for bail, as is done elsewhere in the Caribbean.


"Judge asks for more time in ‘bail-for-murder’ decision"

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