Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Prosecution's Right To Appeal

The right of appeal by the prosecution against an acquittal in criminal cases has been placed once again on the front burner of public discussion by the learned DPP, Paula Llewellyn QC in the aftermath of the Kern Spencer acquittal in the "Cuban Lightbulb Trial". The DPP has not shirked from declaring publicly that the Senior Resident Magistrate made "an error in law" by upholding the no- case submissions.

In a document dated October 7, 2013 the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions put out its case for the Parliament to legislate such a right.. It is a very detailed document citing legal cases in support and giving quotations from eminent juris. To those unschooled in the law, this is heavy stuff--liberally infused with an overabundance of legalese.

In this post we attempt to faithfully summarize some of  the main positions enunciated. We do so without indulging at this time in any assessment of whether the prosecution in Jamaica "deserves" such a right.

  • Neither the Constitution nor the Criminal Justice (Administration) Act confer in express terms any right of appeal on the Director of Public Prosecutions.
  • The rights of the prosecution are limited to only those conferred by virtue of s.35 of the Judicature (Appellate) Jurisdiction Act which allows for the DPP to appeal decisions of the Court of Appeal on very circumscribed grounds,to wit,  a point of law of exceptional public importance
  • The 2010 amendment to the Bail Act also confers a right of appeal to the Crown against the grant of bail.
  • Our regional neighbours: Trinidad & Tobago, Belize, Cayman Islands and Dominica,  to varying extents, have instituted the prosecution's right to appeal under specified circumstances.
  • The prosecution has no right of appeal in circumstances where:-

[1]   the judge makes an erroneous ruling adverse to the Prosecution

[2]   where the verdict of the jury is perverse and unreasonable and goes against the weight of the
        evidence and common sense

[3]   where the judge [shows bias towards the defernce] and does not give the prosecution the proper 
        consideration and where they have at times forced the prosecution to throw out cases

[4]   where verdicts have been procured by actions designed to pervert the course of justice.

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