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Landmark judgment in Court of Appeal: Convicts should get time off for remand stay

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

In a landmark judgment, the Court of Appeal yesterday stated convicted criminals should have the time spent awaiting trial in remand discounted from their substantive sentence. It was made by Appeal Court Justice Rajendra Narine in a 20-page judgment in an appeal by convicted murderer Walter Borneo.


Narine said: “In spite of the difference in privileges afforded to remand prisoners, opposed to convicted prisoners, in this jurisdiction, we are of the view that the prevailing conditions on remand in our prisons are such that the entire period spent in pre-sentence custody ought to be discounted from the sentence.”


Narine further advised that High Court judges presiding over criminal trials should state the sentence they arrived at and then deduct the time the accused spent in remand for the process to be “clear and transparent.” The process in the past has left Prisons Service authorities confused since the exact details of a prisoner’s sentence and time spent in remand were unclear.


Borneo, 22, of Roxborough Street, Diego Martin, was convicted in April last year of the murder of his neighbour Yusuff Joseph. He was 16 at the time. According to the facts of the case, on October 9, 2006, Borneo and two friends attempted to rob Joseph at his home. After ransacking his house, one of the men drew a gun and shot Joseph in his leg. He died a day later at hospital.


Borneo was sentenced to 15 years in prison by Justice Carla Brown-Antoine after being found guilty by a 12-member jury in the Port-of-Spain Assizes. In his appeal, which was presented by attorneys Jagdeo Singh and Hasine Shaikh, Borneo challenged his conviction and sentence.  He claimed that during his trial Brown-Antoine had made six legal errors, including failing to direct the jury on Borneo’s alibi.


The judges dismissed his appeal but adjusted his sentence in accordance with the process stated by Narine. Borneo will now serve 13 years in prison with hard labour. The state was presented by Dana Seetahal, SC, in the appeal.