British judges are to hear the case of a prisoner sentenced to death in Trinidad and Tobago. They will deliberate whether or not Jay Chandler, who may suffer from mental illness, should remain on death row.
The UK’s judicial committee of the privy council (JCPC) is still the ultimate court of appeal for more than 30 Commonwealth states and territories, including Trinidad. The hearing, scheduled for Tuesday will be heard by Lords Kerr, Sumption, Reed, Carnwath and Lloyd-Jones. It comes as calls to enforce the death penalty spread across Trinidad and Tobago as the murder rate increases. The Commonwealth state is the only Caribbean country, apart from Barbados, which has a mandatory death penalty for murder. There are currently 30 inmates on death row.
Chandler was convicted of the murder of Kern Phillip in 2004. The two men were both inmates of the Remand Yard prison in Trinidad. They are said to have been involved in an argument during visiting hours when Chandler chased Phillip across the prison yard. He was caught in possession of a homemade knife. Phillip later died in the infirmary of the prison and a post-mortem showed that his heart had been punctured.
Three barristers from Matrix Chambers will present the judges with evidence in the form of a report from a forensic psychiatrist. It is argued that there is evidence that Chandler suffers from episodes of psychosis.
‘Saul Lehrfreund, co-executive director of the Death Penalty Project, said: “This is yet another example of someone being sentenced to death who has never been assessed by mental health experts.
“Without proper assessments, people who are potentially mentally disabled inevitably slip through the net and it is all too common to find prisoners with severe mental health issues on death row.”
He added that “The backdrop to this case is the clear prohibition on the execution of individuals with mental disorder under international law. The legal safeguards are there – the problem is with their implementation in practice.”
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