Trinidad and Tobago Death Penalty Laws

HangingTHE EDITOR: We all know that after the most famous hangings in Trinidad and Tobago, which involved Nankissoon Boodram (Dole Chadee) and his 8 henchmen, the hanging of Anthony Briggs was the last the country has seen. Why? The main reason is a plethora of Human Rights Laws.

Chronology of Death Penalty laws in Trinidad and Tobago

1. The Bill of Rights 1688 expressly prohibits any “cruel and unusual punishment”.

2. According to Section 4 of the Offences Against the Person Act (Chapter 11:08) “Every person convicted of murder shall suffer death” and the Criminal Procedure Act (Chapter 12:02) in section 57 provides:

“(1) Every warrant for the execution of any prisoner under sentence of death shall be under the hand and Seal of the President, and shall be directed to the Marshal, and shall be carried into execution by such Marshal or his assistant at such time and place as mentioned in the warrant; and the warrant shall be in the form set out as Form A in the Second Schedule …”

Form A expressly recites that the person involved has been sentenced to be: “hanged by the neck until he be dead”. The President of the Republic in signing the warrant authorises the execution in that manner.

3. Section 5(2) of The Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago states that:
“Parliament may not- (b) impose or authorise the imposition of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment…

However, Section 6(1) of the Constitution states:
“Nothing in sections 4 and 5 shall invalidate – (a) an existing law …”.

An existing law is a law that was implemented before the Constitution. While the Bill of Rights 1688 pre-dates the laws in #2, it must be read with subsequent legislation and common law.

International Appeals/Privy Council

In the 4-1 Privy Council appeal rejection for Ronald John v State of Trinidad and Tobago (2009), Baroness Hale, in her dissenting opinion said:

“It is accepted that the death penalty is imposed and executed for the crime of murder consistent with the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago, and where the debate concerns the mandatory imposition of the death penalty in all cases of murder irrespective of the circumstances. It is accepted that our task as the supreme court for Trinidad and Tobago, is to uphold its law whether we like it or not.”

However, this is still not the case because the Privy Council members’ personal beliefs still interfere with and contradict our laws. They are not affected by crime in Trinidad and Tobago, so why should they tell us how to deal with it?

The ruling in Thomas v Baptiste [2000] 1 AC 1 confirmed that there could not be execution of prisoners with pending petitions before international bodies. However, this was immediately repealed by the Constitution (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2000.

This means that even if a convicted criminal has applied to the Privy Council, they could be hanged during the waiting period, but it is yet to be followed.

Essentially, the Privy Council should not have as much power as they do when it comes to capital punishment in Trinidad and Tobago, especially with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in place, but with politics being more important than what’s best for the country, we have yet to see the Constitutional Reform to permanently remove the Privy Council.

When the Government (PNM) attempted to enact a new Constitution, the Opposition (UNC) refused to agree to the changes until it changed the system of voting (proportional representation). The new Government (UNC/PP) is trying to do the same thing, and I hope the Opposition (PNM) would forget politics and do the right thing for the country.

Trinidad and Tobago’s response to the Death Penalty

According to research, almost 90% of Trinbagonians want the death penalty (See: David A. C. Simmons, Conflicts of Law and Policy in the Caribbean-Human Rights and Enforcement of the Death. Penalty-Between a Rock and a Hard Place, 2000 Journal of Transnational Law and Policy, 263, p. 266)

Jamille Broome

www.trinidadtobagolegalrights.com

3 Responses to “Trinidad and Tobago Death Penalty Laws”


  • I am all for the death penalty and corporal punishment, but what I will also add is these on their own are not going to solve the countries problems. A plethora of social reforms and ills must also be addressed.
    Greater effort must be made to raise the level of self discipline and self-worth. The rate of illigitimate births must be reduced to < .001%.
    It is worth nothing if politicians keep on about Vision 2020 and develop nation status by this year or that year. When in reality no realistic educational, social or scientific goals are in place on which to focus the minds of our youth.
    The security of the citizen or visitor must be paramount. Any attack/assault on a person must be viewed as an attack on the state. This should attract at the very least a substantial flogging or be punishable by death.
    I can assure you after a few months or at least a year you would have eradicated most if not all undesirables.
    My main fear is that Trinidadians (less so Tobagonians) have always been copiers. Sometimes without fore-thought or regard for the consequences. What may work for some societies may not work for others. Just because the do-gooders and spineless in Europe and North America may frown upon physical chastisement in schools and by parents at home, does not mean we must take the same stance in Trinbago at this time.
    When the people can demonstrate the respect for one another and society proves to be mature in its thinking then we can look to lessen the punishment. Until then, swiftly hang every last one. Disregard the Privy Council they don't have to put up with it.

    People must earn their human rights!

    Thank you

    Randolph Curvan

  • Bring back hanging , rid the country of these pigs who impersonate human beings,stop all the bleeding hearts , do what should have been done years ago, and please stop using the slavery excuse , blacks were not the only slaves , just the ones with the loudest voices .

  • http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/Khan__Replace_hangings_with_lethal_injection-102199234.html

    “Khan called for hangings to be replaced by “a more humane and less cruel form of execution, like lethal injection.. for the death penalty for treason to be abolished and only maintained for “deliberate, wicked, evil and atrocious murders”.

    Can anyone care to say where these savage , and obviously immoral barbarians such as Israel Khan are emerging from , in this once beautiful country? This comedian made a fortune off the backs of criminal defense enterprise , and now .. ? White color thugs have been running rampant across this country for decades , yet there was a resounding silence on getting tough on them , even if the evidence was there to prove that the effects for their actions on victims were just as psychologically devastating .
    Hey guys , you feel that a 20 year old Afro Trini weed smoking , illiterates , should get the death penalty for killing someone while robbing them of 20 dollars in a robbery, and I too feel Harry Harnarine CEO of the Hindu Credit Union should be forced to experience the same for forcing terrible losses on decent folks , in his billion dollar crooked deals, to bankrupt this fine institution.
    Treason huh !You wish to send fringe lunatic , fake Islamist ,Abu Backer’s bag carrier ,to an early fiery hell that’s devoid of virgins, and I want top see every local Imam, secret business entity , and conniving politicians that was obviously involved in the conspiracy to destroy our attempt at democracy in the same band – even if a few might be implicated from the present regime.
    Yes Uncle Khan and similar others, we know this is your concept of a modern Stalinist purge to eradicate certain selective miscreants from our society, but are you prepared to include ex PM Basdeo Panday, and his cronies for the embarrassing Airport fiasco, or 41 year old Bar proprietor Mark Maharaj, for his activities against a 15year-old girl ?

    http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/_Sexual_assault_victim__and_dad_fear_for_their_lives-102120244.html

    What’s that 15 is the new 20 in Sweet, Sweet, T&T , aka Rainbow Country? I then stand corrected.
    For the record cousin Hector, I’ll include the above coward father in Khan’s lethal list , for his obvious role in his daughter statutory rape , would you?
    Keep dem honest my friend!

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