Ex-death row inmate to challenge prison service over reviews

- File photo
- File photo

A CONVICTED killer has filed a constitutional challenge over the failure of the prison service to hold period reviews of his sentence which was eventually commuted to life imprisonment.

Beemal Ramnarace’s claim says had these periodic reviews been held - every four years as mandated by the prison rules - he would have been eligible for an earlier release.

In December 2023, he was freed after a re-sentencing exercise by Justice Gillian Scotland. By that time, he had spent 30 years and four months in prison. Her sentence was 25 years so she ordered his immediate release since he had already served his term of imprisonment.

Ramnarace was convicted in 1996 for the murder of Ian Wayne Poon which took place in July 1993.

He appealed and a retrial was ordered and in 1998, he was again convicted. He then lost his subsequent appeals.

In 2004, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in keeping with the Privy Council ruling in the landmark Jamaican case of Pratt and Morgan which benefitted death row inmates who could no longer be executed because of long delays.

Ramnarace again benefitted from the 2002 ruling of the London-based court in Naresh Boodram which confirmed that prisoners who had their sentences commuted were not limited to life sentences but were entitled to a new sentence.

In his case, for 26 years, there were only three reviews carried out, half the number that should have been done.

Ramnarace’s latest legal challenge also complains of the failure of the Mercy Committee to meet regularly to consider prisoners’ applications for pardons.

His claim said that based on information he received in a freedom of information request, the committee only sat seven times from 2017 when he also learned that he was recommended by the then Commissioner of Prison for an early release.

“It is clear that the prison authorities have continuously failed to execute their obligations over the years by conducting the quadrennial reviews as the number of reviews which were actually conducted is half of the number of reviews to which the claimant was entitled since the year 1998 to date.

“This is an inexcusable breach of his rights, and it is detrimental to his chances at an early release even though he has consistently maintained a positive assessment in the few reviews that were conducted.

“To compound matters, the delay and inaction of the mercy committee are such that the claimant was deprived of his right to have his application meaningfully considered within a reasonable time, this being a corollary of the right to a fair hearing in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice and the right to protection of the law.

“The conduct of the committee amounted to a flagrant disregard and breach of his constitutional rights.”

Ramnarce’s constitutional challenge was filed on April 5 and will come up for hearing before Justice Frank Seepersad in June.

He is represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Jayanti Lutchmedial, Kent Samlal, Natasha Bisram and Ganesh Saroop.


"Ex-death row inmate to challenge prison service over reviews"

More in this section