Four Guyanese who were sentenced in 2009 to long jail terms in Barbados over drug trafficking have been allowed by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to appeal a ruling of the Barbados Court of Appeal denying their application to appeal their convictions because time had run out.
The court ruled in the favour of applicants Rohan Shastri Rambarran, Lemme Campbell, Somwattie Persaud and Wayne Gavin Green against the Barbados Court of Appeal.
It will seek to settle whether the time for appealing against a conviction begins to run from the date of conviction or from the date of sentence; and whether the Barbados Court of Appeal properly refused to expand the time for appealing the convictions by applicants who had filed notices of appeal against convictions and which had been dismissed by the court as being out of time.
Campbell, 45, his wife Persaud, 40, both of 106 New Garden Street, Queenstown, Georgetown; Christopher Bacchus, 43, and his wife Dianne Bacchus, 37, both of Bay Gardens, Bayland, St Michael; Green, 38, of North Ruimveldt, Georgetown and Bridgefield, St Thomas; and Rambarran, a 43-year-old businessman of Georgetown, Guyana, were convicted on six counts relating to a police seizure of hundreds of kilos of both cannabis and cocaine at a house in Bay Gardens, St Michael on June 4, 2009.
When the applications by the four came up on July 16, 2015 at the CCJ, the Barbados Director of Public Prosecutions argued that the time for appealing had expired on June 25, 2009, 21 days after conviction. The quartet, however, contended that they had filed their appeals within 21 days of the sentencing.
On February 4, 2015, Rambarran also approached the Barbados Court of Appeal seeking an extension of time to appeal. Two of the others followed suit. The Barbados Court of Appeal ruled that it had no jurisdiction to hear the applications and they were in any event an abuse of the process.
In its ruling, the CCJ said, “We think that the issue whether the time for appealing against a conviction pursuant to section 19(1) of the Act runs from the date of conviction or the date of sentence is crucial for the proper functioning of the administration of criminal justice in Barbados and therefore a point of law of great public importance, which needs to be settled in Barbados by the authoritative ruling of a fuller Bench of this Court.”
It added, “Further, if the time for appealing against conviction does not run from the date of sentence as asserted by the Applicants, so that the time for
such appeals has expired as held by the Court of Appeal, there is a further point of law that needs to be finally decided by an expanded panel of this Court.”
It also questioned whether the Barbados Court of Appeal was correct to hold that it could not hear applications from the Applicants for an extension of time to appeal against convictions because it had no jurisdiction to hear such applications.
If the CCJ rules in their favour, the four convicts would be expected to have an appeal of their convictions heard by the Barbados Court of Appeal.
Lawmen, who testified at the trial, said they got a tip and started surveillance at a construction site in Rowans Park, St George, where they saw a container of logs being off-loaded.
They then secretly followed a truck, after some of the logs were loaded onto it, to a house at Bay Gardens, St Michael. When they raided that house, they said, they caught Campbell, Green, and Christopher Bacchus unpacking parcels from hollowed-out logs and the women packing those parcels into suitcases. Drugs were also on the kitchen table and by the backdoor.
They then picked up Rambarran from Hilton, Barbados after Campbell called his name as the ring leader.
- Campbell, whom trial judge Kaye Goodridge said played a “major role” in the incident, was sentenced to 115 years in prison: 15 years for importing, 15 years for possession
and 20 years for trafficking in cannabis; 20 years for importing, 20 years for possession, and 25 years for trafficking in cocaine.
- Persaud, whom the judge said played a “subordinate role” in the crimes and who was told that “immediate release was not an option” was sentenced to 47 years in prison: ten years for possession of cannabis, 12 years for trafficking of cannabis; ten years for possession and 15 years for trafficking in cocaine.
- Christopher Bacchus was sentenced to 47 years in prison: ten years for possession of cannabis; ten years for possession of cocaine; and 12 and 15 years for trafficking in cannabis and cocaine, respectively. •Diane Bacchus was sentenced to 47 years in prison: ten years for possession of cannabis; ten years for possession of cocaine; 12 and 15 years for trafficking of cannabis and cocaine respectively.
- Green was sentenced to 47 years in prison: ten years for possession of cannabis; ten years for possession of cocaine; 12 and 15 years for trafficking of cannabis and cocaine, respectively.
- Rambarran was sentenced to 125 years in prison: 15 years for the importation, 15 years for possession and 25 years for trafficking cannabis; 20 years for importation, 20 years for possession and 30 years for trafficking of cocaine.
As the sentences were to run concurrently, Campbell was to serve 25 years, Persaud, Christopher and Diane Bacchus and Green 15 years each and Rambarran 30 years in prison.