6 cops on Moruga triple-murder charge appeal refusal of bail

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

SIX police officers accused of murdering three friends from Moruga in 2011 have appealed a judge’s refusal to grant them bail until their trial takes place.

They say the Appeal Court has the jurisdiction to hear their appeal, but the Director of Public Prosecutions says otherwise.

Also advancing submissions on the issue of jurisdiction were the Criminal Bar Association (CBA), the Attorney General and the Law Association (LATT).

On Monday, after hearing submissions from all parties, Justices of Appeal Nolan Bereaux, Ronnie Boodoosingh and Maria Wilson reserved their ruling.

“We are conscious it is a decision that has to be given quickly… We will do our best,” Bereaux said.

In July, Justice Norton Jack denied bail to the six – Sgt Khemraj Sahadeo and PCs Renaldo Reviero, Glenn Singh, Roger Nicholas, Safraz Juman, Antonio Ramadin – who are accused of murdering Alana Duncan, Kerron Eccles, and Abigail Johnson on July 22, 2011.

The bail application was made based on the landmark ruling of the Appeal Court which allows anyone on a murder charge to apply for bail.

Duncan, 27, of Duncan Village, San Fernando, Eccles, 29, and 20-year-old Johnson, both of St Mary’s Village, Moruga, were driving in Duncan’s vehicle when police stopped them at the corner of Rochard Douglas Road and Gunness Trace in Barrackpore.

At first, it was claimed the three shot at the police, who returned fire.

One of the officers’ former colleagues who was initially charged with the murder of the three friends agreed to testify against them. That officer has now sued the Director of Public Prosecutions over the terms of a plea deal after pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge.

In July 2013, the officers were committed to stand trial at the end of their preliminary inquiry.

In their appeal, attorneys for the six, led by Senior Counsel Israel Khan, argued that High Court judges were entitled to hear bail applications after the ruling in the Akili Charles case which clarified the law.

However, they admitted the Bail Act was silent on whether, if a judge refused bail, the Appeal Court could review the decision. This application, attorneys for the six contend, was not an ordinary appeal by a convicted person, but from the order of a judge.

They also contended that an accused charged with murder was entitled to apply for bail and the law allowed the Appeal Court to provide relief, since the issue of bail touched and concerned an entrenched right and there was no law which excluded a right of appeal against refusal of bail.

In opposition to the appeal being heard, the DPP, represented by assistant DPP Nigel Pilgrim, has submitted that the appellate court does not have that jurisdiction. It is his contention that any complaint of a breach of constitutional rights should be brought in a constitutional motion and not the appeal of a refused bail application.

Pilgrim has also submitted that Bail Act did not permit the Appeal Court to hear bail applications which did not originate from the magistrates’ courts, and for the higher court to do so now, that right must be given by statute.

Also appearing for the six police officers are attorneys Ulric Skerritt and Arissa Maharaj. Daniel Khan represented the CBA. The AG was represented by Fyard Hosein, SC, and the Law Association by Douglas Mendes, SC.