The State’s appeal over a landmark judgement decriminalising sexual activity between consenting male adults is set to be heard later this year.
When appeal came up for a case management hearing at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain yesterday, Appellate Judge Gregory Smith gave attorneys representing the Office of the Attorney General until May to file the record of appeal for the case.
A date for the hearing of the substantive appeal will be set after the record, which includes High Court Judge Devindra Rampersad’s judgement in the case as well as the submissions that were made before him, is filed. The State has not sought an urgent hearing of the case.
In 2017, Trinidad-born Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Gay, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) activist Jason Jones filed the lawsuit, in which he challenged the constitutionality of sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act which criminalised buggery and serious indecency even between consenting adults.
Jones, who is a resident of the United Kingdom, claimed that the long-standing legislation contravened his constitutional rights to privacy and freedom of thought and expression and was in direct contradiction to this country’s international human rights obligations.
In his 58-page judgement delivered on April 12 last year, Rampersad agreed that the legislation contravened Jones’ rights to privacy and family life.
Although he acknowledged claims from State attorneys that the legislation has never been enforced against consenting adults, Rampersad said that did not mitigate the impact on Jones and other homosexuals, who lived in fear of being branded criminals based on their expression of love and affection. He suggested by allowing it to remain as valid law, Parliament helped to cultivate society’s homophobic views on the issue.
Rampersad did not immediately strike down the legislation as it would have meant that non-consensual anal intercourse (anal rape) would be legal. Instead, in September last year, he modified the legislation to introduce an element of consent.
While the Government has taken a neutral stance on the issue, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi has stated that Government intends to appeal the judgement to the country’s highest appellate court, the Privy Council, to receive a comprehensive judicial determination on the controversial issue.
Jones was represented by Rishi Dass and Antonio Emmanuel, while Fyard Hosein, SC, is leading the State’s legal team.