No new trial for convicted killer …”MURDER IN THE PRISON”

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A prisoner who killed another prisoner at the Golden Grove State Prison more than 13 years ago, has lost his appeal before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to introduce fresh medical evidence.

By a 3-2 majority, the Law Lords, in a 22-page judgment, dismissed the appeal of Jay Chandler on Monday.

Lords Carnwath, Sumption and Reed dismissed the appeal, while Lords Kerr and Lloyd-Jones dissented. In other words, there will no new trial.


Chandler was convicted on 17 August 2011 of the murder of Kirn Phillip on 8 October 2004. He was sentenced to death by hanging. His appeal against conviction and sentence was dismissed by the Court of Appeal (Justices Paula-Mae Weekes, Alice Yorke-Soo Hon and Rajendra Narine) on 12 December 2013.

His appeal to the Privy Council raised an issue not considered below in the Trinidad courts – that is whether new medical evidence should now be admitted relating to his mental state at the time of the offence, with a view to supporting a case of diminished responsibility.

He also renewed his appeal on one of the grounds rejected by the Court of Appeal, relating to the judge’s direction in respect of evidence of propensity. On 8 October 2004, Chandler and Phillip were both remand prisoners at Golden Grove Remand Prison, Arouca. At about 11 am on 8 October, prisoners who were going to have visits from members of the public that day were brought to the holding bay, and called individually by name to line up in the centre of the remand yard where they were to be searched and handcuffed.

Phillip had been searched and was standing at the end of the line of prisoners close to Prison Officer Mohammed. Chandler was the last prisoner to be called.

According to the prosecution, as Chandler approached Mohammed, he lunged towards Phillip and then pursued him across the yard to the gate of the south wing. He had a metal object in his hand with which he was making an upward and downward and sideways movement towards the back of  Phillip.

He came within one to two feet of Phillip before Phillip ran through the gate to the south wing of the prison. Chandler was then cornered by prison officers, and, after being hit with a baton by an officer, he dropped the metal object, which turned out to be an improvised knife.

Phillip was found to have a chest wound and was taken to the Arima Health Facility where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The cause of death was a stab wound to the chest.

The prosecution’s case was that the wound had been inflicted by Chandler. At his first trial in March 2009, he denied the stabbing. He gave evidence that, as he was being handcuffed to Phillip, he had hit him in the face with his fist.

This was because Phillip had stolen $10 which he had given him to buy some cigarettes. When Phillip had begun to run towards the south west gate, Chandler had followed him for a few feet, but was stopped by officers who beat him with a riot staff, after which he became unconscious.

The first trial ended with a hung jury. At the second trial, beginning in June 2011, Chandler did not himself give evidence or call any witnesses. His case, as put in cross-examination, was to deny having a weapon, or having stabbed Phillip; the implication being that he had been stabbed by another prisoner after he entered the south wing, and that the police officers were lying.

In the course of the trial, the prosecution applied to admit evidence of “the Haynes incident”: that is, evidence that in May 2009, almost four years later, Chandler had admitted stabbing Mr Haynes (a fellow inmate) in the neck with an improvised knife. After legal argument, the judge admitted the evidence. No issue is taken as to the judge’s decision to admit it as relevant to propensity in accordance with the guidance given by the Court in R v Adenusi [2006] EWCA Crim 1059; [2006] Crim LR 929.

But there is a live issue as to the adequacy of the judge’s direction on this aspect.

Three members of the Board refused the application to admit new evidence and dismissed the appeal. The other two Lords dissented and allowed the appeal and remitted the case for trial on the issue of whether, at the time of the killing of Phillip, Chandler was suffering from an abnormality of the mind which substantially impaired his mental responsibility.

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