Two murder accused get $3.5m bail after 20 years behind bars

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

AFTER each spending two decades on remand, two men will be allowed to spend their time outside prison walls as they wait for the start of their judge-only murder trial.

On Monday, Ogee Tempro and Kevin Patrick were granted a total of $3.5 million bail to cover the murder charge and a slew of other charges against them.

Tempro was granted $1,000,000 to cover the murder indictment, with one or two approved sureties, and $500,000 to cover kidnapping, false imprisonment, robbery with aggravation, and possession of firearms and ammunition.

Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds, who granted bail to the two, also ordered Tempro to report to the Arima police station three times a week; remain at his mother’s home at Wallerfield Gardens, Arima; not communicate with witnesses for the prosecution; or leave the country at any time without the court’s permission.

He was also put on a 9 pm-5 am curfew. He will also have to give the High Court registrar details of his employer if he begins to work.

Patrick was granted $1,250,000 bail to cover the murder charge, with $750,000 to cover the non-capital charges.

He, too, was given three days to report to the Arima police station; told he had to remain at his mother’s home in Wallerfield Gardens; not make any contact with prosecution witnesses; and abide by the curfew order.

He will also have to get the court’s permission to leave the country and provide details of his employment when he gets a job.

The sureties for both men will have to satisfy the registrar of their relationship with him and their means by statutory declaration and will have to attend court on every date of hearing.

A surety is a person who agrees to be responsible for ensuring an accused follows the bail conditions and attends court.

The men applied for bail in April, pending the start of their judge-only trial before Ramsumair-Hinds. No firm date has yet been set for it.

The two were charged with the murder of Yip Manin Luk on November 23, 2002.

This will be their second trial after the Court of Appeal ordered a new one, quashing their 2009 conviction, when they were sentenced to hang for the murder.

It is alleged two men went to the Santa Rosa home of Alan Fong and Stephanie Yee Fong to rob the couple and during the robbery, Yip Manin Luk, the Fongs’ employee, was shot and killed.

At a previous hearing of the bail application, Tempro’s attorney Sophia Chote, SC, said it was “unconscionable” and “nothing less than an atrocity” for a man to be imprisoned for 20 years without a resolution of his matter and to wait for 12 years for his retrial.

She also said this also did not bode well for the criminal justice system and citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.

Chote said Tempro has spent half his life on remand and it could possibly be one of the longest periods, if not the longest, any prisoner has spent on remand.

She also referred to medical reports showing Tempro had attempted suicide on two occasions because of his lengthy incarceration. She said he was not pretending to be “mad,” but this was his situation, having been incarcerated for 20 years without bail in inhumane conditions.

At that hearing in April, Patrick’s attorney, Shaun Morris, who appears with Larry Williams, also said his client has spent half his life in prison awaiting trial. Patrick is now 45.

Their applications are among scores of similar ones filed by people charged with murder, which was made possible in February when the Court of Appeal ruled that Section 5(1) of the Bail Act of 1994, which denied bail to anyone charged with murder, was unconstitutional, not reasonably justifiable and trespassed on a core judicial function.

This ruling has been challenged by the State at the Privy Council, which has reserved its ruling.

Also being challenged by the DPP, at the Court of Appeal, is the first successful bail application, in March. In that matter, Joel King was granted $1.5 million bail by a Master of the High Court. This was the first time in over a century anyone charged with murder was granted bail.

Williams and Morris also represent King, who is still to access bail.