NINE of ten men serving a life sentence for the murder of hanged drug kingpin Dole Chadee’s brother Thackoor Boodram have again lost their appeal at the Privy Council.
The convictions of the nine were Monday affirmed by five Privy Council judges – Lords Lloyd-Jones, Sales, Burrows Lady Rose, and Dame Julia Macur.
The ten's application to appeal their sentence will be dependent on a death penalty case expected to be heard in November, so that was adjourned.
In May 2018, Justices of Appeal Alice Yorke-Soo Hon, Rajendra Narine (now retired), and Prakash Moosai dismissed their appeals after the ten sought to have their case reopened to admit new evidence – that of the prosecution’s main witness Junior Grandison, who in 2011, swore in a statutory declaration that he lied at the 2001 trial.
Grandison – then the country’s ‘most wanted man’ – did not testify at the appeal, although summonses were issued for him to do so.
Grandison, in his statutory declaration dated June 1, 2011, swore that the evidence he gave at the trial, “was false and did not represent the truth.”
He was the main witness in the prosecution of "Rat" Maharaj, Samuel Maharaj, Damien "Tommy" Ramiah, Bobby Ramiah, Seenath "Farmer" Ramiah, Daniel "Fella" Gopaul, Richard Huggins, Leslie Huggins, Mark "Bico" Jaikaran, and Junior "Heads" Phillip.
They were convicted on August 7, 2001, after a trial that lasted 33 days. The ten lost their appeals before the Court of Appeal but escaped the hangman’s noose because of the delay in hearing appeals at the London Privy Council.
Their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. Grandison’s evidence implicated everyone except Junior Phillip. The case against Phillip was based on the evidence of another witness who testified that he witnessed Boodram’s killing by Phillip.
Boodram was kidnapped and beheaded in 1997.
In their decision, the Privy Council held the Court of Appeal did not apply too high of a test of credibility when deciding whether to admit the fresh evidence as had been argued by their attorneys.
“The court’s analysis was comprehensive and necessarily robust. The court was inevitably required to determine what weight should be given to the fresh evidence. The manner in which the fresh evidence was found to have been obtained characterised it as unreliable.”
The five appellate judges also said they found no basis for a legitimate complaint of the assessment of the witnesses or the findings that were made on the weight of their evidence, adding, “ The Court of Appeal was right not to adopt the ‘jury impact test’ to determine whether the fresh evidence is capable of belief.”
Of telephone conversations Maharaj allegedly had with Grandison in 2011 and 2017, some of which were recorded, when Grandison claimed to have expressed regret for giving false evidence, the Privy Council held the Appeal Court had not shown to have misunderstood or mischaracterised the telephone conversations.
“The court rightly analysed the conversations as a whole with regard to the other evidence before it. The focus on selected dialogue lacks perspective. The findings were neither perverse nor irrational.
“The Court of Appeal did not ignore the impeachment value of Grandison’s retraction. The court found that the retraction originated from the intervention of the appellants and was designed to undermine the case against them. It was not in the interests of justice to admit the evidence. The Board does not accept that the Court of Appeal ignored this aspect of the appeal before them.”
Representing the nine at the Privy Council were Edward Fitzgerald QC, Amanda Clift –Matthews, Jagdeo Singh, Karina Singh, Suneesh Singh, instructed by the UK firm of Simons Muirhead Burton.
At the Court of Appeal the State was represented by Travers Sinanan and Angelica Teelucksingh-Ramoutar while at the Privy Council it was represented by Queen’s Counsel Tom Poole and attorney Hannah Fry, instructed by the UK firm of Charles Russell Speechlys.