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Jul 5, 2017

C.C.J. Hears Final Appeals of Gregory August and Alwin Gabb

Gregory August

A conviction appeal brought by condemned murderer Gregory August, who has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, resumed before the Caribbean Court of Justice earlier today.  Senior Counsel Eamon Courtney and attorney Iliana Swift, both representing August, as well as Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl-Lyn Vidal, are in Port of Spain, Trinidad where final presentations have been made before the bench.  While a decision which will ultimately determine August’s fate as a prisoner has been reserved, he appeared at the Supreme Court in Belize City this morning, where he observed the proceedings via teleconference.  August was accompanied by fellow inmate Alwin Gabb who has also been found guilty of a separate murder and has received a similar sentence.  Gabb has since signed on as an interested party, as the outcome of the appeal will affect his prison term.  Having successfully argued that a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole is in itself cruel and unjust, August’s legal team is challenging his conviction.  If the initial verdict is upheld, August will remain in prison for a determinate period of time before being released under specific conditions.  Should the decision be quashed, August may be out of prison earlier than anticipated.  That, however, depends on the pending CCJ ruling.  Here are a few points raised by Senior Counsel Courtenay on the issue of sentencing, as well as the separation of powers between the legislature and judiciary, during today’s hearing.

 

Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for Gregory August

“From a separation of powers argument and a due process argument, we would accept that at first brush that would appear to be contrary to separation of powers.  It is the legislature that’s imposing that sentence.  The judge has no discretion in terms of pronouncing the sentence of life imprisonment.  The jurisprudence coming from the United Kingdom elsewhere, as well as the European Court of Human Rights suggests that one gets around that by accepting that the ability of the judge or the duty of the judge to individualize that sentence by saying, “I am setting a minimum period that you must serve before becoming eligible for parole“, that that period, the minimum period, for all intents and purposes, constitutes a judicial determination of sentence and therefore, even though the legislature has said life sentence, life does not mean life, and that in fact what happens is that it’s the judiciary that pronounces and determines the period of sentence.  After the minimum period has expired you then come to the question of parole and the jurisprudence as we understand it says that parole does not have to be determined by the judiciary, properly so called, but it must be determined by an independent body after due process given to offenders.  If that process is involved, if an independent and fair parole board is in place then the offender who although under a life sentence has an opportunity to say I am eligible for parole, with the sole issue being considered whether or not he or she poses a risk to the society or to himself if released, then the person comes out.  The person is monitored, his liberty is not full but he is free from confinement in prison.  Taken together, as a whole, the jurisprudence suggests that one: notwithstanding the formal pronouncement of life imprisonment, the sentencing, punishment, retribution and deterrents actually is imposed by the judiciary which would then satisfy the separation of powers requirement.”

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1 Response for “C.C.J. Hears Final Appeals of Gregory August and Alwin Gabb”

  1. Jorge says:

    Why not instead of paving the way for future criminals they push for the death penalty? criminals are of course celebrating if the life sentence should be quashed.

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