Privy Council: Death Penalty in T&T is “not unconstitutional”

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    The Privy Council has ruled that the Death Penalty in T&T is “not unconstitutional”.

    This was determined as it handed down a judgment in the case of Jay Chandler (Appellant) v The State (Respondent) (Trinidad and Tobago).

    In the background to the case, the Court said the appeal concerns whether the mandatory death penalty for murder is contrary to the 1976 Constitution of T&T.

    In dismissing the appeal, it pointed out that the 1976 Constitution saves existing laws, including the mandatory death penalty, from constitutional challenge.

    It says “it is striking that there remains on the statute book a provision which, as the government accepts, is a cruel and unusual punishment because it mandates the death penalty without regard to the degree of culpability”.

    Despite this, it noted that “such a provision is not unconstitutional”.

    It also stated that such laws will continue to exist only so long as Parliament chooses to retain them:

    “The Board concludes by noting that the policy questions posed by the savings clause are not limited to the mandatory death penalty but apply also to other preserved laws which are inconsistent with the fundamental rights enshrined in the 1976 Constitution. The 1976 Constitution has allocated to the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago, as the democratic organ of government, the task of reforming and updating the law, including such laws. Those laws will continue to exist only so long as Parliament chooses to retain them”.

    On August 17th 2011, Jay Chandler, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hanging, in accordance with Section 4 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1925.

    His conviction and sentence was upheld on appeal by T&T’s Court of Appeal and by the Privy Council in a judgment on March 12th 2018.

    His sentence has since been commuted to one of life imprisonment.