Judge lashes attorney in Kartel case for criticism of delays at the Appeal Court

June 11, 2024
The judge, in defence of the local system, noted that delay is not an empty concept and that the complexities involved must be considered. - File photo

Court of Appeal judge, Justice Marva McDonald-Bishop on Tuesday issued a sharp rebuke of criticism about how long it took the court to hand down a judgment in the murder appeal brought by Vybz Kartel and his co-accused.

Defence lawyer John Clarke during his submission on Tuesday morning raised the issue while emphasising that there were systemic delays in the criminal justice system. He said delays must be demonstrably justified so that appellants can have a fair trial.

While noting that he was not blaming any State organ, the lawyer pointed out that the Court of Appeal took 21 months to hand down judgment in the matter, after it was heard.

At the same time, he charged that the Privy Council took one month to decide the matter.

But McDonald-Bishop warned him, “Don't go there.”

She pointed out that a lot of the issues raised at the apex court were already ventilated by the Court of Appeal. 

“We establish questions for the Privy Council Mr Clarke, and the Privy Council refuses to look at other questions. The Privy Council focuses on one narrow issue question, which anybody in the world could have resolved without legal training,” she said.

“So don't compare what happened there. I don't like that because you are talking as if you are a layperson without special knowledge of the system," she continued, while adding that the high number of questions that the court is often asked to answer must also be factored in.

The judge, in defence of the local system, noted that delay is not an empty concept and that the complexities involved must be considered, including the volume of the material.

However, Clarke said given the case's complexities and length, when considering fairness to an appellant, the question that must be answered by the court is whether it is fair to subject the accused to another complex and prolonged trial. 

Clarke subsequently apologised, but the judge sharply told him that "The damage is done."

Clarke is currently making submissions at the hearing to determine whether the men are to be retried after the United Kingdom-based Privy Council, in March, overturned the convictions on the grounds of juror misconduct and sent back the matter to the Court of Appeal for the issue of retrial to be determined.

Adidja 'Vybz Kartel' Palmer, Shawn 'Shawn Storm' Campbell, Kahira Jones and Andre St John were convicted in March 2014 for Clive 'Lizard' Williams' murder and sentenced to life in prison a month later. 

The Court of Appeal upheld their convictions in 2020.

- Tanesha Mundle

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